Primary education

Primary education or elementary education lasts 8 years in India. Pupils aged 6 to 14 complete the following 2 stages:

  • primary stage, grade I-V;
  • upper primary stage, grade VI-VIII.

Secondary education

Secondary education lasts 4 years. Students aged 14 to 18 complete the following 2 stages:

Standard X diploma

Students complete lower secondary education (grade IX-X) by taking exams for a Standard X diploma. In India, lower secondary education is also known as simply 'secondary education'.

  • Duration: 2 years (grade XI and X).
  • Content: usually 5 exam subjects (see 'Standard X diploma curriculum' below).
  • Function of the diploma: access to upper secondary education and to some study programmes in secondary vocational education.
  • Diploma: Standard X diploma. Please note: the name of the diploma varies. Common names include All India Secondary School Certificate, Indian Certificate of Secondary Education and Secondary School Certificate.

We compare the Standard X diploma (or an equivalent) to a VMBO-T diploma.

Standard X diploma curriculum

The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) of the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) is a national guideline for the curriculum of primary and secondary education. The Indian states can follow this guideline when designing their curricula, but they may also deviate from it.

Students usually take exams in 5 subjects to obtain their Standard X diploma. There are no subject clusters in lower secondary education. In some cases, students can choose 1 or more of the exam subjects themselves. Usually, however, they take exams in the following subjects:

  • 2 languages
  • mathematics
  • science (a combination of biology, physics and chemistry)
  • social science (usually a combination of geography, sociology, economics, political science and history)

Upper secondary education

After obtaining the Standard X diploma, students can continue on to upper secondary education. It is also known as higher secondary education or senior secondary education. Upper secondary education consists of an academic stream and a vocational stream. Depending on the stream they choose, students obtain 1 of the following diplomas:

Standard XII diploma

Students conclude the academic stream of upper general secondary education with exams for a Standard XII diploma.

  • Duration: 2 years (grade XI and XII).
  • Content: usually 5 exam subjects (see 'Standard XII diploma curriculum' below).
  • Function of the diploma: access to higher education.
  • Diploma: Standard XII diploma. Please note: the name of the diploma varies. Common names include All India Senior School Certificate, Indian School Certificate, Higher Secondary School Certificate, Intermediate Examination Certificate.

We compare the Standard XII diploma (or an equivalent) with a pass grade in 5 relevant subjects to a HAVO diploma.

Standard XII diploma curriculum

The curriculum usually consists of the following subjects:

  • 1 or 2 languages;
  • 3 or 4 electives.

Electives

Students usually choose a subject cluster (group, faculty or stream) at the beginning of grade XI, which then includes the electives (optional subjects). Common subject clusters are:

  • commerce (e.g. business administration, accountancy, economics);
  • science (exact sciences such as biology, physics and chemistry);
  • humanities/arts (e.g. history, political science, sociology).

The range of electives on offer is generally extensive. These subjects can vary considerably in terms of content and objective.

Vocational Standard XII diploma

Instead of the academic stream, students in the upper phase can choose the vocational stream. They conclude the vocational stream of upper secondary education with exams for the Vocational Standard XII diploma.

  • Duration: 2 years (grade XI and XII).
  • Content: 1 or 2 languages and 3 or 4 vocationally-oriented electives.
  • Function of the diploma: access to secondary vocational education or work. Sometimes access to higher education. However, the exam subjects must then tie in with the chosen specialisation.
  • Diploma: Vocational Standard XII diploma. Please note: the diploma name varies, for example Vocational Higher Secondary Certificate.

We compare the Vocational Standard XII diploma (or an equivalent) with a pass grade in 5 relevant subjects to an MBO diploma level 4.

Board exams

At the end of the lower and upper phases of secondary education, students take exams. These exams are administered by a board with which their secondary school is affiliated. There are 2 types of boards:

  • state boards, for example the board of the state of Punjab
  • central (national) boards

An overview of all boards recognised in India can be found on the website of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). In addition, students only take school exams for certain subjects. We do not count those subjects towards a diploma evaluation.

State board

India is divided into 28 states. Each state has 1 or more boards. Some states have separate boards for the lower and upper phases of secondary education.

Central board

There are 3 central boards:

  • Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE)
  • Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE)
  • National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)

The central boards set somewhat higher standards than the state boards. For this reason, diplomas issued by the central boards – as opposed to the state boards – can sometimes be compared to a VWO diploma. The diplomas of the central boards are as follows:

All India Senior School Certificate from the CBSE

  • Duration: 2 years.
  • Content: at least 5 exam subjects, including English or Hindi. Students are taught in English or Hindi. Detailed information about the curriculum is available on the CBSE website.
  • Function of the diploma: access to higher education.
  • Diploma: All India Senior School Certificate.

We compare the All India Senior School Certificate with a pass grade in 5 relevant subjects to a HAVO diploma.

We compare the All India Senior School Certificate with grades A1, A2 or B1 in 5 relevant subjects to a VWO diploma.

Indian School Certificate from the CISCE

  • Duration: 2 years.
  • Content: at least 4 exam subjects, including English. Students are taught in English. Detailed information about the curriculum is available on the CISCE website
  • Function of the diploma: access to higher education.
  • Diploma: Indian School Certificate.

We compare the Indian School Certificate with a pass grade in 5 relevant subjects to a HAVO diploma.

We compare the Indian School Certificate with an average result of at least 75% in 5 relevant subjects to a VWO diploma.

Migration Cum Transfer Certificate of the Senior Secondary School Examination from the NIOS

  • Duration: 2 years.
  • Content: at least 5 exam subjects (including 1 or 2 languages and 3 or 4 electives). Students are taught in English, Hindi, Odia, Bengali, Gujarati or Urdu. Detailed information about the curriculum is available on the NIOS website.
  • Function of the diploma: access to higher education.
  • Diploma: Migration Cum Transfer Certificate of the Senior Secondary School Examination.

We compare the Migration Cum Transfer Certificate of the Senior Secondary School Examination with a pass grade in 5 relevant subjects to a HAVO diploma.

We compare the Migration Cum Transfer Certificate obtained at the Senior Secondary School Examination with grades A, B or C in 5 relevant subjects to a VWO diploma.