For the ‘super schools' of Namakkal, success is an annual regimen.

When the Class XII toppers' names were announced on Tuesday, all from Namakkal, it hardly surprised those who have been monitoring the success stories of these ‘super schools' which churn out toppers in public examinations with monotonous regularity.

Over the last decade, hardly has a year passed without a student or two from these schools, predominantly from Namakkal and the neighbouring Salem, Erode and Dharmapuri districts, figuring in the top ranks.

In fact, one-third of medical and engineering seats are cornered by the students from these schools. However, the district ranks only seventh in terms of overall pass percentage this year.

That the schools boast of continuous high-voltage successes may perplex many. Massive infrastructure, trained faculty, luxury hostels, and healthcare facilities make them stand apart from other institutions. This attracts students from other parts of the State also. Despite the scrapping of the entrance test a few years ago, these institutions have survived.

Many claim that the tough alone can withstand the rigorous, performance-oriented, round-the-clock teaching methods, which aim for ‘all-firsts' and ‘all-centum' here. The day's 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. schedule is quite hectic, but with some time to rest. Sports and entertainment are a rarity. Repetitive revision tests in all subjects are a daily routine. ‘Programming the children' has been the primary agenda here.

“Here, the students have been repeatedly taught to memorise and reproduce. Application-oriented knowledge is atrociously poor among them,” says educational consultant Jayaprakash A Gandhi. To emphasise this point, he points to the poor performance of many in the Physics paper this year as it contained a few application-oriented questions.

He further says that even a few toppers in the past from these schools had failed to clear subjects in professional colleges. “Many of them have failed to qualify for competitive examinations such as the one for IIT,” he says.

Social activists blame the teaching methodologies in these schools, alleging they lack a humane touch. The children are stretched beyond their limits.

For the schools, success keeps the business going. Failures are not permitted here, says an activist. Both of them contend that the schools are turning students into mark-scoring machines. They also blame ambitious parents.

But school managements have a differing viewpoint. They insist that they adhere to a system that has a proven track record with a healthy approach.

“We have to make students excel in the prevailing system of marks-oriented education,” says R. Subramaniam, chairman of Vivekananda Matriculation HSS, Pandamangalam in Namakkal district, which secured the State second rank this year.

He, however, admits that students lack ‘multi-course creativity' and hence cannot compete in competitive examinations to IIT and other top-notch courses.

“Parents and wards mention their preferences – medical or engineering – before joining the schools. Then we teach them accordingly,” a Namakkal school correspondent says.