Schools are being pushed to rely more on parents and the private sector to fund improvements to their information technology programmes, according to a senior official who oversees IT education policy. The move has already attracted opposition from a primary schools umbrella group which says disadvantaged schools would be under an even greater handicap. However, Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower Cheng Yan-chee said schools catering for lower-income families could apply for funding from the Quality Education Fund and look for sponsorships from the private sector, for which the government would provide financial incentives. 'In the last five-year plan, the government has generously endorsed $2 billion on IT education, most of which was designated for providing access and connectivity to the internet,' Mr Cheng told an international conference on IT education held at Chinese University this week. 'Now that mission has been completed, the government is not going to sponsor schools on advancing IT infrastructure. Instead, we expect them to raise funds from parents and by forming partnership with the private sector to provide better IT education.' The recurrent grant for IT education would remain at $300 million in the next five years, he added. This would be used for training teachers and principals, and for some basic IT infrastructure. The government would not spend much on infrastructure because of the budget deficit, and the fact that all schools had already been supplied with basic equipment. Nelson Lau Chi-keung, chairman of the Subsidised Primary Schools Council, said schools should not be made responsible for finding extra resources to fund IT hardware improvements. 'Teachers are trained to teach, not to do promotion or administration work,' he said. Only a few of schools would be able to receive sponsorship because sponsors tended to prefer the better-known schools. 'It would be more efficient for the government to seek sponsorship or discounts from private companies instead, because this would bring more publicity to the companies.' Mr Cheng said schools could use IT grants according to their needs in the next five years as the government would merge all IT grants instead of spelling out how they should be spent. 'They can use the money to upgrade their IT infrastructure, hire more staff or provide training,' he said. The government would also provide more flexibility in learning and teaching as it planned to abolish the requirement that at least 25 per cent of lesson time should involve IT applications, he added. The blueprint for the next five-year strategy will be released in July, following a consultation which ended last month. Findings of a review by Polytechnic University of the last five-year strategy will also be released. The new plan will be implemented in September.