Staff Training Institute (Civil Service College)

Singapore Infopedia


The Staff Training Institute was set up in 1971 by the government for the training of civil servants in order to enhance the efficiency of the public sector.1 The establishment of the institute marked an important milestone in the training of civil servants in Singapore.2

Background and establishment
Officially opened on 15 March 1971 by then Minister for Finance Hon Sui Sen, the Staff Training Institute (STI), which was a department of the Personnel Administration Branch of the Ministry of Finance Budget Division, provided civil servants with a structured and standardised on-the-job training curriculum for the first time.3 Today, the STI is known as the Civil Service College (CSC), a statutory board under the Public Service Division (PSD) of the Prime Minister’s Office.4

Prior to the establishment of the STI, civil servants in Singapore received ad hoc on-the-job training. It was estimated at the time that more than 50 percent of officers in all grades of the administrative service were probationers who were relatively new and untrained.5 According to Hon, this trend was a state of affairs that should not be ignored if the government were to maintain or even surpass the level of economic and social growth that Singapore had achieved since its independence in 1965.6

Singapore’s post-independence economic and social development had expanded the scope of activities and responsibilities of the government and consequently those of the civil service. Thus it was thought necessary to establish a designated training institute for civil servants so that the civil service would be equipped with the appropriate management and administrative knowledge, as well as skills to govern a growing nation.7

STI courses
In its early years, the STI offered both general and specialised courses. The general courses were designed to give civil servants a basic understanding of the environment affecting the civil service. These courses also introduced management concepts and skills to help civil servants perform their jobs more efficiently.8

Specialised courses, on the other hand, were conducted for civil servants working in specialised areas such as economic planning and development. For instance, one of the earliest STI specialised courses was “Techniques of Project Development and Analysis”. Conducted jointly by the STI and the United Nations’ Asian Institute of Economic Development and Training in July 1972, the course aimed to equip civil servants with more sophisticated techniques of project analysis. This was to help them improve their planning skills for economic development projects, which at the time were increasing in both number and cost.9

The majority of the institute’s instructors were from the civil service. Teaching staff from universities and experts from professional bodies were also invited to lecture on the more advanced courses.10

Premises and organisational changes
When the STI was formed in 1971, courses were conducted at the former Flagstaff House near Stevens Road.11 It later moved to new premises at Heng Mui Keng Terrace in April 1976 and was renamed the Civil Service Staff Development Institute (CSSDI). Three years later in May 1979, it became known as the Civil Service Institute (CSI).12 Apart from continuing to impart administrative and management skills to civil servants, the CSI also sought to improve the language and writing skills of civil servants. It also began disseminating good productivity practices across the civil service.13

In 1994, the management of CSI was transferred from the Ministry of Finance to the PSD of the Prime Minister’s Office.14 During this time the government set up the CSC. Inaugurated on 29 April 1993, the college offered governance, policy and leadership development courses to groom top civil servants. The CSC has four aims: 1) to develop in civil servants a deep understanding of the factors underpinning Singapore’s success; 2) to build a strong sense of camaraderie and service to the nation among senior civil servants; 3) to keep officers abreast of the latest ideas and trends in the world; and 4) to foster synergy and close working relations with the private sector for the benefit of Singapore.15

On 1 April 1996, the CSI and CSC were merged to create a central training institute for civil servants. The Civil Service College name was retained.16 The merger was to better direct and coordinate the training of civil servants.17 The new CSC consisted of three divisions: the Institute of Policy Development, which aimed to develop sector leadership and policy-making competencies; the Institute of Public Administration and Management, which would provide training in management and administrative skills; and the Civil Service Consulting Group, which advised government agencies on training needs and programmes.18 The CSC now has five departments: the Institute of Leadership and Organisation Development; the Institute of Governance and Policy; the Institute of Public Administration and Management; the Institute of Public Sector Leadership; and Civil Service College International.19

After the merger, the CSC moved to a new building in Buona Vista in 1998 where it remains today.20 On 1 October 2001, the CSC became a statutory board under the PSD.21 This arrangement gives the college more flexibility in its staffing as well as autonomy in financial decisions. More importantly, CSC has greater independence in designing and developing courses to equip civil servants with the knowledge and skills to address issues arising from an increasingly complex and competitive civil service environment.22

1. Civil Service Staff Training Institute (Singapore), Training Programme (Singapore: Civil Service Staff Development Institute, 1975), 1. (Call no. RSING 354.595700152 CSSDIS)
2. Tan Wee Lian, “A Staff Training Centre for the Civil Service,” Straits Times, 16 March 1971, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
3. Civil Service College, Singapore, We are CSC (Singapore: Civil Service College, 2011), 4, 15. (Call no. RSING 352.669095957 CIV)
4. Civil Service College, Singapore, We are CSC, 24;Civil Service College Now a Stat Board,” Straits Times, 10 October 2001, H10. (From NewspaperSG)
5. Tan, “Staff Training Centre.” 
6. Tan, “Staff Training Centre”; Hon Sui Sen, “The Opening of the Course ‘Techniques of the Project Development and Analysis’ Conducted Jointly by Staff Training Institute and the United Nations Asian Institute of Economic Development and Planning,” speech, Regional English Language Centre, Orange Grove Road, 24 July 1972, transcript, Ministry of Culture. (From National Archives of Singapore document no. PressR19720724a)
7. Tan, “Staff Training Centre.” 
8. Tan, “Staff Training Centre”; Hon, “‘Techniques of the Project Development and Analysis’.”
9. Hon, “‘Techniques of the Project Development and Analysis’.”
10. “House Told of Civil Service Training,” Straits Times, 25 March 1971, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Civil Service Staff Training Institute (Singapore), Training Programme, 1; Institute to Train Staff,” New Nation, 12 March 1971, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Civil Service College, Singapore, We are CSC, 15–16.
13. “Unit to Upgrade Written English in Civil Service,” Straits Times, 5 July 1979, 11; Conrad Raj, “The Civil Service May Implement QC Circles Soon,” Straits Times, 29 July 1981, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Civil Service College, Singapore, We are CSC, 16.
15. “Top Govt Officers Must Take Courses before Promotion,” Straits Times, 30 April 1993, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
16. Chua Mui Hoong, “Civil Service to Get One Central Training College,” Straits Times, 28 February 1996, 23. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “Civil Service Institute and Civil Service College to Be Merged,” Business Times, 28 February 1996, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Civil Service College, Singapore, We are CSC, 22.
19. “Organisational Structure,” Civil Service Collegey, accessed 2 July 2015.
20. Civil Service College, Singapore, We are CSC, 22.
21. Civil Service College, Singapore, We are CSC, 24.
22. Civil Service College Now a Stat Board.”

Further resources
Call for College to Train Civil Servants,” Straits Times, 29 March 1976, 10. (From NewspaperSG)

Extra Staff Allows Training for More Civil Servants,” Straits Times, 17 February 1984, 13. (From NewspaperSG)

Monthly Clinics for Civil Servants,” Straits Times, 12 April 1976, 13. (From NewspaperSG)

The information in this article is valid as of 23 July 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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