Teachers with good language skills could be rewarded with a cash bonus and higher professional status under a proposal being considered by a high-powered committee reviewing language education in Hong Kong. Under the proposal, teachers of any subject who have reached satisfactory language proficiency would be honoured as 'master teachers' and their salaries raised. The incentive is intended to attract and retain teachers with good language skills. 'It's a worldwide problem that people with good language proficiency go into other businesses rather than teaching,' said Michael Tien Pei-sun, chairman of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research. 'Teachers of all subjects need to have good communications skills. It's essential for a mathematics or geography teacher to have strong language powers to express themselves in the classroom.' But Cheung Man-kwong, president of the 75,000-member strong Professional Teachers' Union, disagreed that teachers should be rewarded because of their language proficiency. 'Teachers are good because they are good at teaching . . . Language is only part of teaching. The reward should not be given out based on the demands of the market,' said Mr Cheung, who is also legislator for the education constituency. As an incentive, 145 positions for chairmen of English subject panels have been reserved for primary school teachers who score four or higher in the benchmark exam. Despite the gloomy labour market, seven per cent of English-language teachers at secondary schools - 321 people - quit their jobs last year, according to the Education Department. The turnover rate is the highest among teachers. Mr Tien also suggested the Native English-Speaking Teachers (NET) scheme be extended to all primary schools. NET teachers are now only posted at about 400 secondary schools. A dozen primary schools have NET teachers under pilot projects sponsored by the Quality Education Fund. Mr Tien said it made more sense to have NET teachers in primary schools because younger children picked up languages quicker. But he said the cost of including all 800 primary schools in the scheme could be as much as $400 million.