Education reform has become a hot topic lately, and one of the much discussed issues is the English language benchmarking test. When the test was first held in 2003, half of the entrants failed, including teachers who had been at their jobs for years. That obviously made many in the education sector fearful for their future. So why not face the dragon before the test? The Chinese University of Hong Kong's Master of Arts in English (Applied English Linguistics) offers an intensive programme of postgraduate study in linguistics. 'This is a programme for people who want to go into English teaching at any level,' said programme director George Braine. 'Most people who are taking this programme are doing so to upgrade their qualifications, and because those who earn the degree are exempt from the government's English language benchmarking test.' Professor Braine said students who obtained the degree would be qualified to teach English at the primary, secondary or tertiary level. The programme focuses on the integration of applied linguistic study combined with issues relating to second language acquisition and practical problems associated with English language teaching and learning. Required courses in the 24-credit, one-year full-time programme and two-year part-time programme are theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics and second language acquisition. Students must also choose four electives from about a dozen on offer. These include teaching pronunciation, pedagogical grammar, second language vocabulary, second language writing, computer applications in second language teaching, and English for specific purposes, among others. All of the teachers in the programme have PhDs and come from backgrounds ranging from North America to Britain and Hong Kong. Courses are taught in the evening and on Saturdays at the Chinese University campus in Sha Tin. The enrolment limit is 30 students for the September intake, with an application deadline of April 30. Tuition fees are $60,000 a year for the full-time programme and $30,000 a year for the part-time course.