Institute of Technical Education

Singapore Infopedia

by Kow, Gerrie


The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) was established by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE) as a post-secondary institution on 1 April 1992. It assumed the functions previously fulfilled by the former Vocational and Industrial Training Board (VITB). As a statutory board under the MOE, the ITE is a key provider of vocational and technical education in Singapore. With one in four secondary school leavers enrolling in the ITE, the institute forms a key component of Singapore’s education and training system. Under its “One ITE System, Three Colleges” Model of Education and Governance introduced in 2005, the ITE has three colleges that offer the National ITE Certificate (NITEC), Higher NITEC, Master NITEC and diploma programmes.

Early history
Technical education in Singapore began with the first Government Trade School established in 1929 at Scotts Road. The school offered two-year courses for primary-school leavers in mechanical and electrical fitting, plumbing and construction. Although the trade school acquired new premises at Balestier in 1940, the occurrence of World War II and the Japanese Occupation meant that classes only began in March 1948. The trade school was reorganised into a vocational institute in 1963 and was renamed the Singapore Vocational Institute (SVI).

In the 1960s and 1970s, vocational training was managed by two separate statutory boards, the Adult Education Board (AEB) and the Industrial Training Board (ITB). As their functions were closely intertwined, they merged in 19679 to become the VITB. The function of the VITB was to promote and develop vocational training, as well as to be the sole national authority on related issues.

Transformation from VITB to ITE
In the late 1980s, statistics from the VITB’s Graduate Employment surveys revealed that 75% of VITB graduates with only a primary school education were not getting the jobs they had trained for and that only 40% were passing their NTC-3 courses. Senior Minister of State for Education Dr Tay Eng Soon noted in Parliament on 27 February 1992 that “employers prefer vocational graduates to have at least a secondary education”. 

The ITE was thus created as a post-secondary institution to improve the employability of vocational trainees and to restructure the VITB and its programmes. The government decided that every student in Singapore had to have at least 10 years of general education, with technically inclined students filtered to the Normal (Technical) stream in secondary schools as preparation. These students would be able to attend the ITE after they finished secondary school.

With the mandate to revamp Singapore’s technical education, the ITE spent $300 million to build, rebuild and extensively upgrade ten technical institutes in Singapore. This investment ensured that each institute was modern, large, and better equipped than many universities in more developed countries. These 10 institutes were located in Ang Mo Kio, Balestier, Bedok, Bishan, Bukit Merah, Clementi, Dover, Jurong, Tampines and Pasir Panjang.

In 2005, the “One ITE System, Three Colleges” education model was introduced and led to the consolidation of the multiple institutes into three mega campuses: ITE College Central (Balestier, Bishan, Macpherson, Tampines, Yishun), ITE College East (Simei), and ITE College West (Choa Chu Kang). In the interest of resource savings, these three campuses were overseen by the ITE headquarters in terms of policies, curriculum development, student intake and standards, but were free to develop their own areas of specialisation in order to create programmes that were diverse and attractive. These three campuses aimed to provide a comprehensive education that focused on holistic training so as to produce well-rounded graduates equipped for the challenges of the working world.

Branding and public perception were crucial factors that shaped the evolution of the ITE. When it was set up in 1992 as an important pillar of post-secondary education, public perception of vocational training was negative. The overhaul of the ITE and its public image took place in successive phases through three strategic blueprints. The goal of ITE 2000 (1995-1999) was to transform the ITE into an established post-secondary technical institution by the year 2000. ITE Breakthrough (2000-2004) aimed to transform young trainees from mere vessels of knowledge to applicators of knowledge through world-class technical education. The most recent strategic plan, ITE Advantage (2005-2009), sought to establish ITE as a global player that produces “work-ready” and “world-ready” graduates that are competitive at the international level.

The ITE’s innovations include the eTutor and eStudent systems pioneered in 2002.Using advances in IT and e-learning technologies, the eTutor system connects different campuses into an on-line learning community that promotes interactivity and collaboration. The eStudent system is a web-based student services administration system that enables ITE students to manage academic and student-related services such as enrolment, financial transactions and module selection.

In 2005, the ITE introduced the new ITE Certification System in order to maximise the relevance of ITE certification to industry standards and needs. The system has four levels of certification (Nitec, Higher Nitec, Master Nitec, Diploma) that are closely linked to the specific entry requirements. Having various levels of certification accommodates the certification needs of various industries as well as acknowledges that different students possess different levels of skills and aptitude.

The ITE has distinguished itself by winning a number of local awards. In 2005, it became the first educational institution to be awarded the prestigious Singapore Quality Award by Spring Singapore. This award is conferred on world-class organisations that demonstrate the highest standards of business excellence. This was followed by other awards such as the Public Service Distinguished Award, conferred by the Prime Minister’s Office in 2010, as well as the Singapore Innovation Class, conferred by Spring Singapore in 2011.

The ITE has also made its mark in the international arena. In 2007, it defeated 30 countries to win the inaugural Harvard-IBM Innovations Award in Transforming Government. This prestigious award was conferred by the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation of Harvard University and recognises ITE’s programmes as having a profound impact on the lives of citizens.

: Establishment of ITE as Post-Secondary Technical Education Institution.
1994 : Operation of New ITE Bishan Institute.
1995 : Operation of New ITE Headquarters.
1996 : Operation of New ITE Dover Institute.
1998 : Operation of New ITE Balestier Institute, ITE Tampines Institute and ITE Yishun Institute.
2000 : Operation of New ITE Bukit Batok Institute.
2001 : Operation of New ITE MacPherson Institute.
2002 : Launch of eTutor Learning System, eStudent Administration System and new national ITE Certification System (Nitec/Higher Nitec/Master Nitec).
2003 : Launch of ReNEW Initiative for Adult Learners.
2005 : Operation of ITE College East, ITE’s first comprehensive college. Establishment of the Info-Comm Centre of Technology, ITE’s first centre of technology. Winning of Singapore Quality Award for World-Class Business Excellence.
2007 : Winning of global IBM Innovations Award in Transforming Government.
2010 : Operation of ITE College West, ITE’s second comprehensive college.

Gerrie Kow

Chiang, M. (1998). From economic debacle to economic miracle: The history and development of technical education in Singapore (pp. 51-53). Singapore: Times Editions.

(Call no.: RSING 607.5957 CHI)

Durai, J. (2009, October 7). ITE, polys soar in global skills contest. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Garekar, B. (2007 September 25). ITE wins prestigious Harvard award. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Goh, C. L. (2008, February 22). ITE route a Spore success story: MM. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Ho, A. L. (2007, February 13). Man who made ITE world class calls it a day. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Ho, A. L. (2007, September 30). ITE: From 'school of last resort' to 'jewel in S'pore's crown'. The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Ho, A. L. (2007, October 27). Farm boy now boss of $50m firm. The Straits Times, p. 69. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Institute of Technical Education. (n.d.). ITE - A global leader for innovations in technical education. Retrieved June 20, 2011, from

Institute of Technical Education. (1995). ITE Balestier chronicle (p. 7). Singapore: ITE Balestier.
(Call no.: RSING 374.013 INS)

Institute of Technical Education. (2005). Powering up the world: One ITE system, three colleges (pp. 1, 8, 30). Singapore: Institute of Technical Education.
(Call no.: RSING 373.246095957 POW)

ITE to take on research and consultancy work. (1992, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Law, S. S. (1985). The vocational training system - Its development and challenges (pp. 2). Singapore: Vocational and Industrial Training Board.
(Call no.: RSING 370.113095957 LAW)

Law, S. S. (2008). Vocational technical education and economic development - The Singapore experience (p. 125-6, 128). In S. K. Lee (Eds.), Toward a better future: Education and training for economic development in Singapore since 1965. Washington, DC: The World Bank.
(Call no.: RSING 370.9595709045 TOW)

Leow, S. W. (2009, April 22). Grand Prix to roar with ITE students. The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

$15.4 m approved for five training projects by newly set up VITB. (1979, April 3). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Meeting the manpower needs of industry. (1973, March 21). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Singapore’s trade school. (1929, October 2). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Total training for ITE students. (1997, April 25). The Straits Times, p. 58. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

Vocational & Industrial Training Board. (1983). Commemorative magazine: 10 years of vocational training in Singapore (1973-83) (pp. 3, 6-7). Singapore: Vocational and Industrial Training Board.
(Call no.: RSING 370.113095957 COM)

Wong, S. M. (2009, May 28). Designs of the future. The Straits Times, p. 123. Retrieved September 15, 2011, from NewspaperSG.

The information in this article is valid as of 2011 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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