Train and Teach

To enhance the quality of teaching-learning process and empower teachers to improve their efficiency, innovative teacher training programmes are becoming the buzzword, writes Syed Zafar Mehdi

On July 25, Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal set into motion 10,000 teacher training programmes to be conducted by IIT Bombay under the ‘Talk to a Teacher’ project of the National Mission on Education. A historic initiative to empower the teachers and improve their competency and efficiency, it is the first time ever that a simultaneous training of 10,000 engineering college teachers is being conducted with the help of broadband network and ICT tools.

In Kerela, State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) has developed a programme to improve the management capacity of teachers and to enhance the quality of ‘teaching-learning process’ in all government and private schools of state. SRM University of Chennai has offered to fund the short term training programmes for teachers of technical education across the country. Maharastra government has signed a MoU with British Council to train 17,000 English teachers in the state, who will then travel across the state to train other teachers in primary schools. Assam government has joined hands with Microsoft Corporation India to accelerate information communication technology (ICT) adoption in schools, to improve the skill sets of teachers. Bihar government has approached World Bank for loan to train school teachers in the state.

Teacher training and development is fast emerging as a key area where more attention and emphasis is required to ensure the educational standards go further up in Indian colleges and universities. While it is a somewhat new trend in India, it has a fairly long history in west. Many institutes in America and Europe have devised short courses in learning, teaching, and assessment to equip teaching staff with techniques that help them deliver better.

As Elizabeth Jones writes in Growing Teachers: Partnerships in Staff Development (1993), “teachers learn about teaching and learning by playing the teacher script, observing what happens, and discussing all the possibilities with other teachers. In this process, they come to see themselves as people who know thereby people capable of making appropriate choices for themselves and for children. In Training Teachers: A Harvest of Theory and Practice (1994), Margie Carter and Deb Curtis refers to the need for teachers to examine their own filters – the experiences and conditioning they bring to a teaching situation as well as examining their roles and strategies to see what role they play in their interactions with children.

According to a recent report in New York Times, schools in New York City spent close to $100 million last year just on training teachers. The federal government there gives local districts more than $1 billion annually for teacher training programs. In UK, more teachers are to be trained ‘on the job’ rather than in universities, as announced by Education Secretary Micheal Gove recently. “The impact of these changes on initial teacher training will be revolutionary,” said Gove.

A study done by Graham Gibbs of Oxford University and Martin Coffey of University of Leicester to see the impact of training of university teachers on their teaching skills concludes that training can indeed increase the extent to which they adopt Student Focus. “Training of university teachers is now established in every university in UK, Norway and Sri Lanka
and is becoming increasingly common in many other countries. From being small in scale and low in credibility and poorly supported, substantial training of 120-500 hours duration is now well embedded in many institutions,” says the study.

The training and development of teachers extends to moral and ethical domain too. Dr Amanda Mergler of Queensland University of Technology in her study on teacher training and development argues that it is imperative for teachers to be trained explicitly in the areas of moral development and values education in order to effectively develop and support students. “It is fundamentally important that teachers be skilled in the areas of values education in order to effectively teach values to their students. Of course, teachers who are currently in the field also need exposure to values education training,” says Mergler. In another study on teacher training, teacher quality and student achievement, Douglas N Harris (University of Misconsin-Madison) and Tim R Sass (Florida State University) try to understand the ways in which training affects the ability of teachers to promote student learning. Their findings suggest that experience greatly enhances the productivity of elementary and middle class teachers, and that advanced degrees are uncorrelated with the productivity of elementary schools teachers.

The use and application of technology is critical to the success of teacher training and development programmes. It’s important to introduce technology into schools to improve teaching and learning. And as experts would say, failure to invest sufficient resources in teacher training will result in failure of school-based technology initiatives.

At a time when brick-and-mortar teacher training programs are not finding many takers, the mushrooming world of online training programs is on upsurge. WAC University, a popular online institution has just recently announced a new training program specifically designed for its online instructors which will be delivered through webinars. WAC University will not only train its own faculty members through these webinars but trainings will also be offered to aspirants around the world. A January 2012 study by Eduventures, a consulting firm that has studied online teacher training programs, found that principals are just as willing to hire from online programs as from traditional ones.

However, contrary to widespread perception, teacher training and development is not the same thing. Donald Freeman in an essay written way back in 1982 maintains that teacher training and teacher development are distinct in some respects. “Training deals with building specific teaching skills – how to sequence a lesson or teach a dialogue – and development, on the other hand, focuses on the individual teacher – the process of reflection, examination and change that can lead to doing a better job and to personal and professional growth.”



How Zahid Farooq (16) was killed

Syed Zafar Mehdi

1. Name: Zahid Farooq Shiekh
2. Age: 16
3. Educational qualifications: Was studying in class 11th
4. Profession: Student
5. Economic background / status: Middle class family.
6. Date of killing: February 05, 2010
7. Location of killing: Kralisangri Brein Nishat (12 kms from heart of Srinagar)
8. Whether or not he was throwing stones when killed:  No

  1. Details of killing: Shot in the chest by BSF constable Lakhwinder Kumar on the orders of his Commanding Officer (CO) of the 68 battalion, RK Birdi, when Zahid and his friends playfully jeered at the BSF patrolling party. (1) (2) (3) He later succumbed to his injuries at SKIMS. Autopsy revealed that the bullet had pierced the back and chest, damaging the lungs
  2. Eyewitness accounts: Those who witnessed the incident said Zahid was killed “when security forces opened fire after a group of boys refused to leave a high-security area.” (4) The then SSP (Srinagar) Riyaz Bedar, quoting eye-witnesses, said that some boys were sitting on the roadside when an unidentified security vehicle came and fired at them. (5) Eyewitnesses also told the police that the vehicle of the security forces had an insignia of “hangul” (red deer). The insignia is used on the vehicles of BSF and the paramilitary force has a unit based nearby. (6) Quoting an eyewitness, Farooq Ahmad Sheikh, father of Zahid, said that the CO of the BSF (RK Birdi) had snatched the rifle from a trooper (Lakhwinder Kumar) and fired at his son. (7)


  1. Family members’ account: The victim’s family is disillusioned with the judicial system. “It has been year since he was martyred. The case has not proceeded even on snail’s pace… The justice seems to be a far-fetched dream,” says Zahid’s father, Farooq Ahmad Sheikh. (8) Farooq had challenged the version of the BSF and maintained that it was the CO (RK Birdi), rather than the constable (Lakhwinder Kumar), who fired at his son. “Why has it become an exercise that when authorities commit wrong, there are commissions, investigations and all time-consuming processes. They do since they want people to forget it. But my fight is against this forgetfulness. I will go to Supreme Court to seek justice for my son,” says the father. Family says that Zahid had gone out with his friends to play cricket on February 05, when BSF contingent opened fire on them. (9)


  1. Other details (mourning/protests/burial or any other details): As his body was handed over to his family, large number of people in and around Nishat poured out on the streets and joined the protests, demanding stern action against the “erring” cops. (10) Soon, the protests spread to other parts of valley, and administration found itself in a spot of bother. Zahid’s killing came at a time when valley was already on the boil following the death of 14-year-old Wamik Farooq in alleged teargas shelling by police. The body of Zahid was buried in a graveyard near his home in Brein-Nishat, amidst complete shutdown and chanting of pro-freedom slogans. (11) His family is yet to recover from the shock. His father, Farooq Ahmad Sheikh is suffering from insomnia, sister Farhat has been under depression, and mother Parveena Begum weeps for hours together. (12)


  1. Whether FIR has been filed: Yes. Following Zahid’s killing, massive public protests forced police to register a case under FIR no 04/2010 under section 302/109, 201 (murder, destruction of evidence and abetment of crime) of RPC at Police Station Nishat. The accused in the case were the BSF constable Lakhwinder Singh and his commandant R K Birdi. (13)


  1. Police/ government account: “It was alleged that men in uniform may have been involved in the death of a teenager on 5 February. Our inquiry has revealed that prima facie, constable Lakhvinder was involved in the incident,” BSF special director general PPS Sidhu told reporters on February 10. (14) But reports said that during his questioning, Lakhvinder revealed that he had only followed the orders of his boss and fired three bullets from his automatic rifle, one of which hit Zahid on the chest. (15) Terming the killing of the boy as “unfortunate”, SSP (Srinagar) Riyaz Bedar said, “killing of the boy is a mystery and we have registered a case to identify the culprits.” (16) A senior police official was quoted as saying, “the BSF personnel have told interrogators the officer (Birdi) had snatched the rifle from Lakhwinder, cocked it and returned it to the constable, asking him to shoot at the fleeing youth. The constable was initially reluctant but later obeyed the order.” (17) Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was quick to react on Zahid’s murder. “Incidents of unprovoked or innocent killings will not be tolerated and whosoever is involved in such killings will be brought to book and doled out exemplary punishment,” Abdullah said in a statement. (18)


  1. Case developments since the killing: JK police had arrested the BSF trooper, Lakhwinder Kumar, after he was suspended by the BSF following an in-house enquiry which found him involved in the killing of Zahid. The co-accused BSF commandant R K Birdi was suspended for not reporting the matter to his higher-ups. But, in a true army style, a BSF official maintained that “his suspension does not mean he is involved in the murder.” (19) A court of inquiry was constituted to probe R.K. Birdi’s role in the killing. J&K Government also ordered a probe into the firing. But if the family of victim is to be believed, it turned out mere eyewash. “Chief Minister always refers to our case whenever he expresses his views on human rights. I say that despite being the status known to everybody, nothing has happened,” said the father of victim, on his son’s first death anniversary in February this year. (20)

    As soon as the hearing of case began, to brush the case under the carpet, BSF had asked court’s permission to try the accused in the General Security Force Court (GSFC), which was objected by Additional Advocate General, Ali Mohammad Magray. He said that the accused were not on active duty on the fateful day. On November 25, CJM Srinagar Yashpal Bourney, allowed the plea by the BSF through Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Brig (Retd) R M Painuly, seeking stay in the civil proceedings and transfer of case to GSFC under section 80 of BSF Act of 1989. Later, the state government filed a criminal revision petition in the High Court against the order passed by the CJM. (21)

    In its 3-page charge sheet, the Special Investigation Team of police charged the duo under Section 302 of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC), an offence punished with death, or imprisonment for life and fine. The duo was also charged under Section 201 (destroying or tampering with the evidence) and Section 109 (abetment of offence). On February 23, 2011, Srinagar wing of High Court took up Zahid Farooq’s case. Justice J P Singh, while modifying the previous order, permitted BSF to go ahead with the departmental enquiry and fulfil all formalities pertaining to the case. (22)

    Chief Justice of High Court, Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifulla on May 23, 2011 transferred the criminal revision petition from Srinagar to Jammu. Zahid’s family challenged the transfer order and demanded its revocation. “The state government can afford to fight the case at Jammu. I am a poor man and cannot afford the expenses to travel to Jammu,” said victim’s father Farooq Ahmad. (23)

    16) Whether compensation has been granted, and if yes, details: State government on March 23 announced Rs 5.10 crore as compensation for the 102 persons killed during last year’s unrest in the Kashmir Valley, including Zahid. (24) His family outrightly refused the ex-gratia from government. “We have been fighting. We don’t need any jobs or compensation. We want the perpetrators to be booked or hanged,” said Parveena, Zahid’s mother. (25)

    17) Links and references to sources:










9)      Ibid


















“Writing in India is continuously going through a process of evolution”

Kapish G. Mehra, Publisher of Rupa and Co speaks to Syed Zafar Mehdi about never-ending travels, mass reach and the youth

Q1. Looking back at the 75 years journey, do you think the mission has been accomplished?

The very nature of a journey signifies that the travel is far from complete. Hence, as the journey still continues, we wish to use this milestone as a point from where we wish to step into the future.

However, we are glad to have had the opportunity to serve the readers and lovers of books all these years. Rupa has been at the forefront of mass market publishing in the Indian market and has gone on to publish the biggest bestsellers of all times. We have had the opportunity to present to the book reading public such great books which have changed the dynamics of publishing all together.

Q2. It all started with a dhoti-clad man, who could barely read and write English, meeting an Englishman at Great Eastern Hotel.  How much has that story of daring-to-dream-and-running-the-gauntlet inspired you at Rupa?

I am glad to be born in the business of books. It is truly inspiring to be able to publish books which have gone on to become cult names in the Indian market. It is always inspiring to reflect on the journey. However, the moral of the story of that dhoti clad gentleman is to be able to consistently perform to the very best of one’s potential while keeping in mind that there are greater challenges to be look forward to and to accomplish.

Q4. Rupa books are everywhere today from book stalls, exhibitions, libraries to book fairs? It even bagged awards for the most attractive display for many consecutive years at World Book Fair. Is that part of your sales strategy?

At Rupa, we have always believed in serving the reader and have taken on all possible efforts to reach our end readers. Through our self-owned distribution system, we have been able to permeate all A, B, C and D level towns of India. Book fairs are wonderful opportunities to meet our readers and we are glad that our stalls have been loved by them during these exhibitions. All editorial, production and marketing processes at Rupa are geared to work towards ensuring a successful sale and satisfied customer.

Q5. Rupa set the trend of giving platform to raw talent like Anurag Mathur, Tara Patel, Upmanyu Chatterjee, Chetan Bhagat Tabish Khair and others. What is your take on the young writers in country today?

Writing in India is continuously going through a process of evolution. The style of writing has undergone a sea of change over the last couple of years. We at Rupa have always believed in promoting young and new talent. We publish the maximum number of first time writers in the country and continue to do so. Amongst the many successful authors published by us include Anurag Mathur, Sunil Gavaskar, Chetan Bhagat, Ravi Subramanian, Neeraj Chibba, Varsha Dixit, Rashmi Kumar, Tishaa, Sudhindra Mokhasi, etc. We strongly believe in the strength of the young writing developing in the country and hope that they would contribute to literary fabric of the nation in a major way.

Q6. After 26/11, Rupa published many personal accounts, sensitive and astonishing tales surrounding the event and its aftermath. And we also know how during the freedom movement, Rupa would supply books to Naini Jail, where the frontline soldiers were lodged. How much important is it for publisher to be a responsible part of the society?

A publishing house is an important and integral part of a nation’s society. Books that are published and brought to the mainstream offer a platform of discussion and debate. Such discussions help in developing an informed public opinion as well as set in motion a dialogue which sometimes results in new books. Such books due to their wide reach within the intelligentsia of the society open up avenues for reflection by the decision makers of a nation. Hence, it is the duty of a publisher to further the cause of strengthening the social fabric of the country through books published by the house.

Q7. Now at 75, what lies ahead for Rupa. Is there something readers should look forward to?

We are in the process of working on developing new categories/ sub categories of writing which could set in motion a new style of writing for the next decade. We are currently looking at a couple of books, some of them by first time writers whom we feel might find a prominent place in the bestseller lists of the country. We would like our readers to look forward to a host of new good quality books with attractive content and affordable pricing!

Feathers in Rupa’s cap

Sunny Days by Sunil Gavaskar,

A Princess Remembers by Late Maharani Gayatri Devi,

The Inscrutable Americans by Anurag Mathur,

2 States, Three mistakes of my life, One night at the call center, and five point someone by Chetan Bhagat,

If god was a banker by Ravi Subramanian,

Pink or black by Tishaa,

Right fit wrong shoe by Neeraj Chibba,

Right fit wrong shoe by Varsha Dixit,

You can sell by Shiv Khera,

Food review: Aka Saka, Defence Colony


Aka Saka

Defence Colony, Main Market

Syed Zafar Mehdi

My critic friends say this Defence Colony eatery has deteriorated in quality and class since its prime few years back. But before being judgemental, I decided to check it out myself. Aka Saka has been in business of serving the typical not-so-Indianised Chinese food for past 25 years now. Last week, I dashed off to the famed eatery, looking for some spicy and authentic Japanese and Chinese food.

The hush interiors are in sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle outside. The dining area is spacious as per Delhi standards. The ambience is alluring and the soft music playing in background sets up the mood for no-holds-barred dining. I make myself comfy on a corner seat, over-looking a beautiful piece of abstract art.

Quality of food is above-par. It’s not the typical indianised version of Chinese food, or like the modern Chinese offerings, where you struggle to make sense of taste. Most of the dishes are recognisable by their names and then the staff is always ready to help you out.

With an Indo-Chinese cuisine marked by The Sweet and Sour Soup, Kung Pao Chicken, Mongolian Potatoes, Drums of Heaven and Chowmein, and authentic Japanese fare, Aka Saka is more than an over-priced eatery. The delicacies like Kimizu, Japanese soups, Japanese Potato Salad, Chilli Chicken, Momos, Chilli Paneer, Chicken Chowmien are excellent. But the favourites remain the delicious spring rolls and the wholesome Talumein soup. One can also spot lot of youngsters during the happy hours sipping on beer.

Tailpiece: The eatery, though little over-priced, is worth your money. The hype is justifiable. And criticism largely unwarranted.