The first Higher Secondary School class 12 exams were conducted across the State in 1980

After months of tedious preparations, close to eight lakh students will be spending anxious moments before the announcement of the class 12 higher secondary examination results on Friday.

But, ask T. Sridhar, who was the first first rank holder in the State when the examination was introduced in 1980, and he says that it was still not ‘ the big exam’, like how it is seen today.

In the State, the mammoth coordinated exercise of evaluating students with one final class 12 examination was introduced a little over two decades ago.

Mr. Sridhar, a student of Don Bosco Matriculation Higher Secondary School, who topped in the 1980 examination with a score of 1112/1200, recalled that his mathematics paper was tough. In May 1980, headmasters seemed to have urged the government for an ‘ad-hoc increase of marks to candidates who write the mathematics paper in the recent higher secondary examination’.

Speaking to The Hindu on the phone from California, Mr. Sridhar recalled how his friends called him up after seeing his name in the evening newspaper on the day of the results. As it was the first time, they even used some questions from the previous PUC exams and content from some of those textbooks to study, he said.

“Though we had model exams, it was still new to us. Everyone was learning on the job and teachers from different schools would correspond with each other. We had excellent teachers and we knew that the standard of the paper would be high,” he recalled.

K. Devarajan, director of government examinations, said that according to official records, 1,18,084 students appeared for the first class 12 higher secondary examination, which was conducted in April-May, 1980.

“The results were published on June 30 and even back then the pass percentage among girls was higher. The overall pass percentage was 59,” he said.

Educationist S.S. Rajagopalan, who was then the headmaster of Sarvajana School, in Peelamedu, said the introduction of higher secondary classes in 1978 ushered in important developments — high schools had to be upgraded into higher secondary schools, and higher education was made more accessible to students who lived in villages.

“Most PUC colleges were located in towns, and many students who completed class 10 from villages found it limiting in terms of cost and arranging for accommodation. With higher secondary, access to higher education improved manifold because the schools were located in villages, and students could continue to study there after class 10,” he said.

According to an article in The Hindu dated May 8, 1979, former Tamil Nadu governor Prabhudas Patwari hailed the State government’s ‘experiment with higher secondary education’, and congratulated the government and the Board of Higher Secondary Education for giving thought to the ‘important reform’.

Nearly 1.15 lakh pupil joined the higher secondary course, compared to the intake in PUC which was less than 85,000, he is quoted as saying.

He attributed the success of vocationalisation to the location of the higher secondary course in the schools. “Of the 912 higher secondary schools, 709 offered vocational courses to benefit 25,000 students,” he said.

K. Venkatasubramanian, director of education, was quoted as saying that almost all the remaining schools in the State had asked for permission to open higher secondary courses.