One of the first few Mandarin-English immersion schools in Britain officially opened in south London last month joining the continuing zeal here and beyond for learning Mandarin Chinese.
Petts Wood Mandarin-English Preschool, which opened in January in Bromley is also the very first Mandarin immersion preschool founded in partnership with a church in Britain.
After three years of planning and preparation, the school draws expertise on Chinese immersion learning from Europe, the United States and China. It offers Chinese and English bilingual immersive education for children aged two to five.
Xu Zhi, the head teacher of Petts Wood, said the preschool offers up to 25 places and six children registered prior to the opening, with many families signed up for trial lessons in the next few weeks.
"I had the idea of establishing a bilingual preschool three years ago when I realised that more and more British families want an earlier start for their children's Chinese learning," said Xu, who has run a successful weekend Chinese school in Bromley since 2006.
Many high school students in Britain also learn Chinese at school for two or three hours each week. But that is not enough and it is also a bit late for language learning, she added.
Rigorous scientific research has shown evidence that bilingual education not only benefits children from a language learning perspective, but also in cognitive and intellectual development.
The local community showed huge interests and support to the newly established preschool. Bromley Councillor Kim Botting, who has visited China three times, is very optimistic about Britain-China education exchanges. While attending the opening ceremony Botting called the school a "wonderful and fantastic thing" for the community.
Last November, an inspector from the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) said the office was very happy to issue a registration certificate to the preschool.
In recent years Britain has seen a rise of interest in learning and teaching Chinese as a second language. In 2015 the Department for Education launched a new £10 million initiative to expand Mandarin teaching in state schools across the country. Hundreds of pupils are taking part in the programme, which aims to make at least 5,000 young people fluent in Mandarin by 2020.
A Mandarin-English nursery named Hatching Dragons was established in London in 2015, accepting babies from as young as six-months to five. Two years later, the first bilingual English and Mandarin primary school was opened in Kensington.