ETHOS Issue 10, Oct 2011
The Singapore Public Service has always strived to be forward-looking, effective, efficient and committed to continuous learning and growth. These efforts have helped Singapore to weather the turbulence of the past decade, and will stand us in good stead through the uncertainties ahead. Such capacities do not come about by accident: they are the outcome of deliberate, sustained and substantive investment in our people and institutions in the course of our development. In 2001, we made the strategic decision to incorporate the Civil Service College as a statutory board, subjecting our public sector's premier training institute to the discipline of market competition and financial self-sufficiency. We wanted an organisation that would be more responsive to economic conditions, emerging trends and promising innovations both within and outside the public sector, and thus better equipped to prepare our public officers for a complex future of accelerated change.
The Civil Service College has since done commendably. It has learned to operate, compete and thrive in a dynamic market. Its reputation as a learning institute and training provider extends beyond our shores. It has developed important new research capabilities, helping to codify, renew and extend the tacit knowledge of the public sector, and catalysing new thinking. It has engaged with a growing network of top practitioners, experts and thought leaders from around the world, connecting Singapore to the global discourse on the business of government. Its milestone programmes and courses, enriched by its unique familiarity with government, continue to be relevant, impactful and very much in demand. Its corridors and classrooms are hives of activity, where our public officers exchange ideas, socialise, and develop shared perspectives and values. The College has become a powerful node of influence in shaping Singapore's Public Service. It is in a prime position to help address the fundamental challenges that now confront the public sector.
The value proposition of government is changing. This commemorative issue of the College's journal ETHOS examines some of the ways in which significant trends — from global upheavals and geopolitical shifts to changing demographics and a more diverse society — are transforming the nature of governance, and the relationship between government and society. How can a nation become more resilient in the face of an uncertain future? What is the right balance of roles and responsibilities between the public, private and people sectors? What will it mean to be a public officer a decade from now? What different skills, capabilities and values will we need, and how can we best develop them? These are questions being asked at the heart of government today.
The Civil Service College will be an important partner as we continue to explore these issues. We will probably need to engage much more with a public that has become more informed, discerning and assertive. Most of the time, such interaction will be undertaken by the corps of civil servants who are at the forefront of service delivery. We will need to help them develop the competence and confidence needed to better serve and work more closely with stakeholders outside the public sector. Structural and cultural changes will be inevitable in many public sector agencies; authentic and transformational leadership will be called upon. These are areas in which the Civil Service College today is well-placed to make significant contributions.
The mission of the College is to develop people for a first-class Public Service. As we celebrate this milestone in its development, we should capitalise on its many strengths and continue to find new opportunities to do so.
Ms Lim Soo Hoon
Public Service Division,
Prime Minister's Office and
Chairman of the Civil Service College