Hong Kong and Singapore have signed an agreement to exchange experiences and co- operate on technical education. Hong Kong Vocational Training Council (VTC) and the Singapore Institute of Technical Education (ITE) signed a five-year agreement. Under the agreement, the institutes will co-operate in reviewing and improving curriculum planning, staff training and workplace training. Speaking at the signing ceremony, VTC executive director Professor Lee Ngok said although there were similarities between Hong Kong and Singapore, vocational training was much more advanced in Lion City. 'In Singapore, ITE is responsible for the training of 25 per cent of school leavers who have completed 10 years of general education each year, and 40 per cent go to polytechnics; whereas only six per cent of school leavers go to both VTC and sub-degree courses in Hong Kong,' he said. 'And in Singapore, 20 per cent of that age group goes to university, while only 18 per cent do in Hong Kong.' The ratio in Hong Kong was unbalanced, he said. 'In a balanced developing society, we cannot only have management people. We also need lower-level workers.' Professor Lee said delegations from both cities would travel more in order to exchange ideas on vocational education. Professor Lee has been appointed to ITE's board of governors and Singapore's Dr Law Song Seng has been appointed as a VTC member. In the near future, the VTC plans to put more emphasis on work-place training. 'At present, besides hotel-keeping and tourism studies and seamen's training, most apprentices in Hong Kong rarely get hands-on experience in an industry-like setting,' Professor Lee said. 'It's difficult for us to ask manufacturers to allow our apprentices to practise in a real setting.' Hong Kong could learn from Singapore, which had established a system of allocating apprentices to industries, he said. 'Singapore has set a good example for us in this area. Their planned economy helps the establishment of a network for allocating apprentices,' Professor Lee said. Details of the collaboration will be discussed later; some programmes under consideration include the establishment of an apprentice exchange programme. The VTC also plans to examine whether a competency- based certification system for technical skills - similar to Singapore's - could be introduced in Hong Kong. Also, the review of the system of apprenticeship will be completed by next year.