As school systems around the country are beginning to require that students prove they can read, write and function in the modern world, the Maryland State Board of Education yesterday decided that high school graduates must also show they can have fun.

The board tentintively agreed yesterday that all students should be required to participate in some kind of organized leisure activity such as art, music, performing arts or sports before they can graduate from public schools.

Maryland would be the first state in the country to establish a leisure program if the board gives the proposal final approval, according to Chris Pipho, a curriculum expert with the Denver-based Education Commission of the States.

Called the Competency Index for Leisure Area, the proposed program would become part of the department of education's $500,000 Project Basics, a year-old program designed to ensure that graduating students master basic subjects well enough to be able to read a recipe, balance a checkbook and understand a train schedule.

"What we're doing is making a mandate from the state level that participation in arts, crafts and physical education represent things which all schools should be concerned with in order to mold well-rounded kids," said state School Superintendent David W. Hornbeck.

The state currently requires public high school students to complete four-year-old English courses, three social science courses, two sciences and courses in the sciences and math area, and one physical education course. According to Hornbeck, the intent of Project Basic and the leisure program is to ensure student proficiency in a wider veriety of subjects.

"A series of review committees will now look at leisure programs already in effect in the various school systems and come up with recommendations for minimum standards," Hornbeck said.

Richard Petre, director of Project Basics, said yesterday that the proposed program might not fully evolve until the 1983 school year, but speculated that once established, the program might mean an increase in such courses as paper sculpture, pottery and singing.

The program was presented to the school board along with the results of a spring survey of 17,000 parents and school officials many of whom disapproved of the general concept of a leisure program, saying it would amount to "surf, sun and laziness," according to Hornbeck.

"I'm frankly not excited about this program," said aboard member William Goldsborough, who cast one of two dissenting votes. "I equate Project Basic with programs like social security and welfare. Good ideas, really, that go bad when they're injected with frivolous matters.

"I love sports and the arts as much as anybody else, but I don't think they should be included with a competency-based project," Goldsborough said.

Hornbeck countered by saying, "I can't accept the notion that the arts and physical activity represent a frill. We're trying to let students master skills in sports and the arts that they can use the rest of their lives."

The program's designers decided how proficiency will be measured in the arts and sports, but Hornbeck said, evaluations would probably be based, on teachers evaluations rather than standardized tests.

Petre said "as far as physical activity is concerned, we might follow the line of the president's physical fitness program. That's just speculation, though. It doesn't mean much.

According to Hornbeck, the goal of the program would be met if students understand the need for physical fitness and the role of the arts as forms of expression.

Pipho, the curriculum expert with the Education Commission of the States, said during a telephone conversation yesterday, "I know of no other state that has such a program. There are over 20 states that are using competency-based programs, but they all deal with the three R's, primarily. No one's gone into leisure things."