India’s practices in civil service training and development

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During the colonial period, the British built up the elite Indian Civil Service, often referred to as the "steel frame" of the British Raj. The Indian leaders of the independence movement initially viewed the colonial civil service as an instrument of foreign domination, but by 1947 they had come to appreciate the advantages of having a highly qualified institutionalized administration in place, especially at a time when social tensions threatened national unity and public order. 

The constitution established the Indian Administrative Service to replace the colonial Indian Civil Service and ensure uniform and impartial standards of administration in selected fields, promote effective coordination in social and economic development, and encourage a national point of view. Recruits appointed by the Union Public Service Commission are university graduates selected through a rigorous system of written and oral examinations. In 1988 only about 150 out of a candidate pool of approximately 85,000 recruits received appointments in the Indian Administrative Service (IAS). Indian Administrative Service officers are primarily from the more affluent and educated classes. However, efforts to recruit women and individuals from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes have enhanced the diversity of the civil service. Recruits are trained as administrative generalists at an academy at Mussoorie (in Uttar Pradesh). Thereafter, recruits entered into a period of apprenticeship and probation in the central and state governments. Approximately 70 percent of all officers serve in state administrations; the rest serve in the central government.

The States (but not Delhi or the union territories) have independent services within their own jurisdictions that are regulated by local laws and public service commissions. The governor usually appoints members of the state public services upon the recommendation of the state public service commission. To a large extent, states depend upon nationwide bodies, such as the Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service, to staff top administrative posts.

Although the elite public services continue to command great prestige, their social status declined in the decades after independence. In the 1990s, India's most capable youths increasingly are attracted to private-sector employment where salaries are substantially higher. Public opinion of civil servants has also been lowered by popular perceptions that bureaucrats are unresponsive to public needs and are corrupt. Although the ranks of the civil service are filled with many dedicated individuals, corruption has

been a growing problem as civil servants have become subject to intense political pressures. There were two exclusive groups of civil servants during the formative stage of British rule in India. The higher employees who entered into 'covenants' with the East India Company came to be known as covenanted servants, whereas those not signing such agreements came to be known as uncovenanted. The latter group generally filled the lower positions. This distinction between the covenanted and the un-covenanted virtually came to an end with the constitution of the Imperial Civil Service of India based on the recommendations of the Public Service Commission. The Constitution mentions only two all-India services that were in existence at that time: the IAS and the IPS, but it provided for more by giving the power to the Rajya Sabha to resolve by a two-thirds majority to establish new all-India services. The Indian Forest Service and the Indian Engineering Service are two services set up under this constitutional provision. Running the administration of a vast and diverse country like India requires efficient management of its natural, economic and human resources. That, precisely, is the responsibility of the civil services. The country is managed through a number of Central Government agencies in accordance with the policy directions given by the ministries. The construction of the Civil Services follows a certain pattern. The All India Services, Central Services and State Services constitute the Civil Services.

The Civil Services have been divided into various grades to facilitate functioning. Junior scale officers work in the states that they are allotted to. Senior scale officers work as Under Secretaries in the State. Officers in the Junior Administrative Grade, which is reached after nine years of service, hold the position of a Deputy Secretary. When officers make it to the Selection Grade, which is reached after fourteen years of service they hold the position of Directors or Deputy Secretary. The next scale is known as the Super Time Scale or the Senior Administrative Grade and the officers in this grade hold the post of a Joint Secretary, Additional Secretary, Secretary or Cabinet Secretary.

1. Structure of Indian Civil Service

The Indian Civil Services are organised into two main sections: the All India Services and the Central Services. Officers of the All India Services, on appointment by the Government of India, are placed at the disposal of the different State Governments. These services include Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service. Officers of the Central Services, on the other hand, wherever they might be posted, serve the Government of India only. These include Indian Foreign Service, Indian Railway Service and Indian Postal Service.

Accounts and Auditing Services (including The Indian Audit and Accounts Service, The Indian Civil Accounts Service, Indian Defence Accounts Service and Indian Revenue Service). These include Indian Customs and Central Excise, Indian Ordinance Factories Service, Indian Defence Estates Service, Indian Information Service, Central Trade Services, Central Industrial Security Force.

The IAS was formally constituted in 1947. The IAS handles affairs of the government. At the central level, this involves the framing and implementation of policy. At the district level, it is concerned with district affairs, including development functions. At the divisional level, the IAS officers look after law and order, general administration work.

For entry to the IAS there is a multi-step examination process. The entire process takes a full calendar year. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) first conducts an objective type preliminary examination for screening candidates. This is followed by the preliminary examination which comprises two papers. There is one on general studies and another on an optional subject. The preliminary round is basically a screening round. The marks obtained are not counted for in the final stage of the examination. For candidates who clear the preliminary round, there is the main round. The second stage is the main examination that includes written tests and an interview. The written test consists of nine papers (essay type answers to be written).

The total marks secured in both the written tests and the personal interview determines the rank of a candidate. The Interview this is the last hurdle to be cleared. The interview carriers 250 marks and there are no stipulated minimum qualifying marks. The main aim of the interview is to assess a candidate’s overall personality. The interview is conducted by a board. The board is fully informed about the candidate and they base their questions on a record of the candidate’s career, which is provided to them. The aspects that are generally looked into are the candidate’s grasp of academics and general awareness as in current affairs, social issues, etc. It is basically a test of the potential of a candidate.

The board tries to assess whether he or she can rise to the demands of the job of an IAS.

2. Training program for India Administration Services

The framework for training the IAS comprises the foundation training and in service training at the different periods of seniority. Whereas the format of foundation training has, by and large, remained unchanged, the format of in service training has undergone fundamental change during the period 1986 to 2005. It was 1986 that the then government ushered in a 360-degree change by introducing in service training for the officers of IAS irrespective of their rank and seniority.

a. Foundation training program

The candidates appointed to the IAS on the basis of the results of competitive examination are put on probation for a period of 2 years from the date of appointment. They undergo the three phases of training:

The phase 1: The two years training programme which starts with the first phase foundational training for 9 months at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration. The first phase of training aims at strengthening the understanding of the political, social and administrative environment in which an IAS officer has to function and to develop values, ideas and attributes expected of an officer belonging to the IAS. A great deal of emphasis is laid on understanding of public systems and their management and in addition, given grounding in Public Administration, Law, Economics and Computer Applications. As the training progresses in this phase, an endeavor is made to inculcate competence and confidences in the officer trainees to shoulder and discharge effectively the responsibilities, which will are reposed in them in the first few years of their service. The trainees get an opportunity to re-examine the field realities vis-à-vis theoretical inputs provided in the Academy.

The phase 2: the IAS trainees spend twelve months in the state to which they are allotted. During the second phase when they are in the allotted state, the IAS trainees are exposed to socio-economic and cultural conditions of the state, administrative system of the state (district administration, land revenue system, fiscal policy, civil supplies management), state acts, rules and regulations, panchayat raj institutions and cooperative institutions, management techniques, state language and training in survey and settlement work. The trainees are provided inputs in intuitional finance, survey and settlement, interacting with village functionaries, project management, rural housing, weaker section finance, agriculture, industries, co-operatives, engineering, municipal administration, major irrigation, forestry, tribal development administration and district administration.

The phase 3: after the completion of training in the state, the probationers reports back at the academy for about three months.

b. In-service training program

At present, IAS officers are required to attend compulsory in-service training programs. In addition, they also have a number of optional training programs that they could be selected to attend. The career profile of an average IAS officer has four distinct phases. The first 10 years are mostly spent on program implementation, coordination, district administration, etc. During this period, officers generally occupy positions in the districts as Sub-divisional Officers, project directors of institutions like District Rural Development Agency, Chief Executive Officer of District Administration, District Collectors, etc. In the next 10 years, an IAS officer largely works on areas of general management, planning, budgeting, implementation of programs at the State level (as against implementation at the district level), etc. During this period officers generally occupy positions as heads of state level. The scheme of compulsory in-service training as well as the optional programs available is as follows:

-         In-Service Compulsory Training: Two week training in the service range of 6-9 years, two week training in the service range of 10-16 years, two week training in the service range of 17-20 years.

-         In-Service Optional Training: One week program under the flexible training scheme, long duration programs at the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), short or long duration program abroad.

The scheme of compulsory in-service training of IAS officers was started in 1986 and comprised of a combination of one week programs to be attended every year and 4-week programs to be attended at three different levels of seniority.

3. Training methodology

-       Group work

-       Hands-on Sessions

-       Workshop/panel discussion

-       Case Study

-       Experience sharing

-       Lecture sessions

-       Library study

4. Evaluation of training

Evaluation of training implies an assessment of the way the job was done by the trainees and those who were in charge of the training programme and the impact the training had on the trainee. The aspects that have to be covered are, therefore, its organization, its administration, the training process and its results. The Government of India has described two questionnaires, one for ascertaining the reactions of the participants to the course and another to obtain an assessment of the qualities of participants as observed during their training by the head of the training institution. The first questionnaire sought to obtain the reactions of the participants on various aspects of the training programme, like relevance of the course to the participants, area of work/ interest, the extent to which the course objectives were realized, the programme design, their views on effectiveness of faculty / quality and adequacy of the course material, rating of topics covered, boarding and lodging, transport, library, seating arrangements etc., and their overall assessment of the programme. The second questionnaire to be filled in and returned to the Government of India in respect of each participant related to the impression of the head of the training institution regarding attendance, quality of participation, interaction, ability to apply concepts, and human leadership qualities of the participants. The survey results showed that the reasons could be that effectiveness of each pedagogic method would depend upon the topic / subject covered as well as the person handling that particular method. It was found that lecture method was considered very effective, though they felt that the guest faculty was, by and large, more effective than the internal faculty. The reason for their very high rating of the guest faculty are not far to seek. The Institute selected the guest faculty on the basis of their proven reputation and their recognition as authorities in their areas. Moreover, they were outstanding, more experienced and held positions commensurate with their abilities. These programmes have well established the place of the conventional formal lectures as a training method though this alone is not sufficient when skills are to be developed and when practical ability is required. Further, if it has to be effective, the performance after the training of the individual has to be followed up. Such a follow-up would not only ensure better results for making the trainees perform better results for making the trainees perform better but also help the training institutions and the trainers to organize the programmes better. Evaluation after a period of six months to one year, can determine whether the training is achieving its objectives and whether they were the right objectives measuring the amount of change attributable to training and how these changes affect on organization’s performance have to be translated as training goals.

5. Limitations that need to be fixed

The present system for IAS training Indian educational system is highly structured, lecture based and far removed from the public and the actual scene of the action. The training programs encourage the candidates’ participation in the training process. However, many of India’s IAS training institutions are trapped in a vicious circle of repeating run of the mill programmes without analysing the needs of the various sectors or the real levels at which public managers function. A Training Needs Survey is carried out once in 5-6 years and on the basis of it a training calendar is formulated. The institute have no basic research on training activities for civil servants so that the correction and modification of training programs are erratic; training content is based more on regulations than the necessary skills; lack of oriented knowledge; lack of evaluating strength or potential factors of civil servants at the outset of training as to orient civil servants to the new career for better future. The major gaps in different areas for the three levels of IAS officers are given in the table 1:


Table 1

Gap Areas

Top / Senior





Procedural knowledge

Implementing knowledge


Conceptualization planning


Executive skills


Towards Environment


Towards work and organization


Target setting

Application and skills

Appraisal and recognition


International and Scenario and public policy




6. New approach in civil service training program

The continuous training of IAS officers is very critical from the point of view of the socio-economic and political transformation of India. It is clear that both the contents and the formats of IAS training programmes have to undergo a radical change. The demands arising out of the globalization of the Indian economy require IAS officers to pickup new skills and concepts, and ensure their effective application.

In the long term, courses in the area of public management including service delivery need to include project work. The application of Information Technology will go a long way in improving the quality of public management and access to it.

The Indian approach to post experience training for IAS officers relies upon a nodal agency for training public managers which has developed linkages with national and international institutions. There is a need to change the existing paradigm of IAS training from the existing one to the futuristic one as shown in table 2

Table 2



Supply oriented

Demand oriented

Procedure oriented

People oriented











Risk aversion

Risk taking




Modern and topical




Goal oriented



Skill based and narrow

Concept based and comprehensive



Ad hoc





Environment driven

Some suggestions to tone up IAS training are as follows: The induction training need to undergo a paradigm change. There is a need to make the contents of training relevant from the point of view of the needs of time. This requires constant revision and updating of the contents. The method of training during different phases of training requires a drastic change. It may be relevant to use simulations, games, case studies and role play. Workshops, retreats should be structured around a participative approach with professional facilitation, so that exchange of experience among officers serves as the major source of learning. The mentoring may be introduced for the comprehensive development of the personality of IAS trainee and also for inculcating values, culture and ethics. Study tours to rural area need to be conducted to provide a feel of the real India to IAS trainees. The financial competencies derived from training are very low. The new framework should provide for training in project management, working out cash flows, profitability computation, cost of capital concepts, comparative costing, and risk analysis and management. The training of IAS officers is considered a very crucial aspect of public policy and public administration in India aiming at building a contingent of qualified and capable civil servants to fulfill assigned tasks. A comprehensive scheme of training is in place. However, its implementation has not been smooth as the various stakeholders have not completely committed themselves to its cent percent success. There is a need to prepare the conditions of human resources, training facilities, contents, programs, methods and funding for training implementation.

A paper written by Prof. R.K. Mishra and edited by Bui Quang Vinh, MPM