It was 2.30 p.m., but Sumaiya Fathima’s phone rang without respite. “I’ve been getting calls since morning, but it’s been quite an exciting day,” said the student of MWA Matriculation School, who stood second in the State in Arabic. School grounds were flooded with cameras as this year’s class XII Higher Secondary Examination marksheetss saw a spike in marks. The results, which were announced on Friday, threw up some predictable outcomes, reasons to celebrate, and reasons for caution.

K. Devarajan, director of government examinations, said that reforms such as bar codes for answer sheets and top sheets with students’ details printed on them had made it easier to both conduct the examinations and process the results.

Among the 22 students who shared the first three ranks in the State, including those who had not taken Tamil as the first language, five were from the city. Since the State only recognises those who opt for Tamil as official toppers, four toppers from the city who had taken Sanskrit, German and French did not make it to the official list. They thus joined N. Vishnupiriya from Bharathi Vidya Bhavan Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Erode and P. Anandhi from Savitri Vidyasala Girls Higher Secondary School in Trichy who scored as much as the State topper, but did not make it to the official list because they had Sanskrit as their first language.

The city, which has the highest number of schools in the State, also slipped from the twelfth to the seventeenth rank among the districts. Chennai’s pass percentage went from 91.82 per cent to 91.9 per cent, while districts such as Erode made a giant stride. From the fifth position last year, it took the top spot this year. A principal of a matriculation school in West Chennai said that it was hard to put a finger on why the city’s performance lagged. “Most schools here have high scorers. The overall performance of the city could be influenced by a combination of reasons,” she said.

Another factor was the increase in the number of centums in some subjects, especially physics. 2,710 students scored a centum in physics this year in the State as opposed to 36 in 2013. In mathematics, the number rose from 2,352 to 3,882 and in commerce, from 1,336 to 2,587. A student who scored a centum in physics this year said that the paper was easier than last year’s.

Balaji Sampath, who also teaches through ahaguru.com and trains students for examinations such as IIT-JEE said that the high scores are not necessarily indicative of increase in standards. “Students from the State do not make a mark in examinations such as IIT-JEE and other national-level tests.  The students are smart, but are not being given the right kind of input,” he said.  In computer science, the number of centums in the State dropped from 1,469 to 993. 

Sources said that the high pass percentage and in some cases, centums could be attributed to the fact that the class XII syllabus has remained unchanged for many years, and students are thorough with most of the previous years’ papers.

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