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Examining the Syllabus Trio: ICSE vs CBSE vs SSC - Unveiling the Similarities and Distinctions

A student often has to choose from three main education boards in India. Each board has its advantages - one offering a more region-based education and others offering a uniform curriculum throughout the country. The three main education boards are ICSE, CBSE and SSC.

If you are wondering which board is more suitable for your child, what differentiates all three and what are some similarities, here is all you need to know about the key features of the three.

●      Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE)

The ICSE is a national board that operates under the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE). Known for its comprehensive curriculum, ICSE aims to provide students with a holistic education that includes academic rigour and extracurricular activities. The curriculum for ICSE is the same all over the country, except for the syllabus of third language subjects which differ according to the state.

Key Features of ICSE

These main features of the ICSE syllabus differentiate it from the other two.

●       English language skills: ICSE gives immense importance to the English language and introduces plays by Shakespeare at an early stage with a vast syllabus that covers grammar, literature, and composition.

●       The number of subjects: ICSE offers a wide variety of subjects, including English, Mathematics, Science, and Social Science, which are common, compulsory subjects in all three boards. It introduces several optional subjects such as Computer Science, Economics, Fine Arts, Fashion Designing and more.

●       Emphasis on practical knowledge: Unlike CBSE and SSC, ICSE focuses on practical knowledge of each subject to ensure application-based learning among students. ICSE encourages practicals via hands-on activities, experiments, field trips, etc.

●      Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)

CBSE is another national-level board. The Government of India regulates it. It is renowned for its student-friendly curriculum focusing on academics and overall development. The curriculum for CBSE, just like ICSE, is the same nationwide except for the third language syllabus, which varies from state to state.

Key Features of CBSE

The main features of the CBSE curriculum are:

●       Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE): CBSE evaluates students on the basis of continuous assessments, which take place a few times over the academic year to understand students' learning progress and help teachers make changes to their teaching method accordingly.

●       Focus on Science and Maths: CBSE is famous for preparing a much more comprehensive syllabus for Maths and Science. A main ICSE and CBSE difference is the fact that CBSE is much more theoretical in its approach.

●       Competitive Exams: The syllabus of CBSE is known to be helpful for students preparing for competitive exams such as NEET or JEE. It is also the reason why students often shift from ICSE to CBSE in class 11 if they aim to sit for one of these exams.

●      Secondary School Certification (SSC)

The SSC board is a part of the state boards in India. It is responsible for conducting secondary exams among schools in each state. Since the SSC board differs in each state, the exam pattern, syllabus, structure and medium of instruction also differ from state to state.

Key Features of SSC

The main features that differentiate it from the other two national boards are:

●       State-specific curriculum: The syllabus of the state board is aligned to the specific state's requirements focusing more on state-level, local topics for theoretical subjects, ensuring relevance and contextual learning.

●       Medium of instruction: Each state has its main regional language as the medium of instruction in SSC board schools. For example, in West Bengal, the medium of instruction for SSC schools would be Bengali.

●       Competitive exams: The syllabus of SSC is not relevant enough for competitive exams. Students from state boards often shift to CBSE or ICSE for higher studies if they aim to sit for a national examination.


The national boards, ICSE and CBSE, share several similarities in terms of the syllabus, medium of education, evaluation method and so on. The state-level SSC differs the most from the three due to the primary focus on regional languages and topics which might not be as relevant when put into a national perspective. Whichever board you follow, TopperLearning is always ready to assist you with top-notch study materials that ensure maximum marks in exams and high ranks.

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