The Foreign Service Journal - September 2016
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Kishan Rana is an author, teacher and former ambas-

sador for India. He is currently an honorary fellow at the

Institute of Chinese Studies in Delhi.


n interesting new criterion has emerged

to assess foreign ministry performance.

Some analysts believe that the serious-

ness and care with which a foreign

ministry handles diplomatic training is

a powerful proxy indicator of the effi-

cacy of that ministry. Several elements

lie behind this.

Training represents an investment in

the future; like all investments, it should be examined in terms of

the value delivered. Besides financial resources, there is also the

investment of time by officials, trainees and training organizers

to be considered. After all, a foreign ministry’s most valuable

assets are the people it employs, not its fine embassy buildings

and the outward diplomacy spectacle.

A diplomat would do well to ask: How does the system in my

country reflect these facts in its training programs? One might

add another key query: Given that half or more of the diplomats

are stationed abroad at any point of time, do we use the distance

learning option? And if not, why not?

The U.K. Model’s Novel Features

In January 2015, the British Foreign and Commonwealth

Office established the Diplomatic Academy with features and

Diplomatic Training:

New Trends

In foreign ministries around the world, training is undergoing

intensification and expansion.


approaches that deserve attention. (See “The Diplomatic Acad- emy: A First for Britain’s Foreign Office” by Jon Davies, Foreign

Service Journal

, July-August 2015.)

With the FCO abandoning its earlier stand that all needed skills

will come “on the job,” a holdout against professional training

has fallen. Some years earlier, the Quai d’Orsay had established

its training institution. The U.S. National Foreign Affairs Train-

ing Center (still referred to as FSI, the Foreign Service Institute),

established in 1947, was an important resource for the FCO in

developing the Diplomatic Academy. Like the United States and

France, the U.K. will not conduct lengthy induction courses for

new entrants. Instead, they have opted for what I call a “focused

selective training” model, which is practiced by Australia, France,

the United States and others. In this model new entrants receive

an orientation and then get to work at the ministry; newly

appointed officials also attend short courses on specific themes.

The alternate model—“full-time entry training”—is practiced

by Germany, India and almost all of the Latin American coun-

tries. Courses run for 12 to 24 months. During this time, new

entrants are also exposed to work at the ministry and embassies

abroad, but for short sessions. This means that even after joining

the diplomatic service, trainees do not get to do full-time work

until they graduate a year or two later. Malaysia’s hybrid model

is interesting—after initial orientation, new entrants get to work

at the foreign ministry, going to a full-time, four- to six-month

training course at the end of about two years, before their first

overseas assignment. It is an excellent combination of both


Four aspects of the U.K.’s Diplomatic Academy are striking.