The former Baharuddin Vocational Institute along Queensway is Singapore’s first tertiary school dedicated to manual and applied arts in Singapore. Named after the late Inche Baharuddin bin Mohammed Arif, a People’s Action Party (PAP) assemblyman who died in April 1965, the Institute was officially opened by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew on 20 June 1965 to nurture skilled, local designers and craftsmen in advertising, fashion and printing trades.
The school marked a radical change in Singapore’s education policy into one which geared students for better jobs in the increasingly industralised city-state and upgraded the skills of apprentices and craftsmen who were already in the industry. Courses conducted at Baharuddin Vocational Institute included commercial art, dressmaking, furniture design, pottery and shell crafts. Low Yee Ming (b.1964) was a former student at the Institute. She recalled, “The graphic design (commercial art) programme was extremely popular among students and it had a large intake. I enrolled in the course so that I could learn ‘more’ practical skills. The lecturers at the Institute were markedly different from those at academic schools as they accommodated more freedom and creativity in their class”.
The Institute relocated to its new site at Stirling Road in 1969. For the next two decades, Baharuddin Vocational Institute was the main institute which helped nurture graphic designers and craftsmen in Singapore. In 1990, the entire applied arts department from Baharuddin Vocational Institute moved to Temasek Polytechnic to start the School of Design. This led to the closure of the Institute.
In 2004, the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) took over the premises.