Choosing which language medium children should be taught in at kindergarten and then primary school comes as an unexpectedly early decision. Admission requirements for most international and ESF primary schools demand that children can understand and communicate freely in English. 'This is assessed at our entry interviews,' said German Swiss International School's head of international primary, Warren Johnston. 'Our medium of instruction is English so children need a high level of English in order to succeed and we do not provide ESOL support. 'The majority go through our kindergarten and then move to our primary and secondary schools. It is an advantage for children to have attended an early childhood institution whose medium of instruction is English.' For parents who want their children to move on to a local primary school, there are other considerations. 'My husband is American and we don't speak Cantonese at home, so we sent our boy to an international kindergarten which taught in English,' said Mandy Lam. 'But he now goes to a good local primary and it's been tough on him. There are so many characters for him to catch up with and he has a lot of homework. 'In class, he's not used to sitting down for such long periods concentrating. He's even struggling to communicate in the playground. I do feel guilty, wondering whether I should have kept him in a local school all the way.' One solution is the bilingual approach offered by groups such as Victoria Educational Organisation and Learning Habitat Bilingual Kindergartens. The two groups teach children using a dual-language, full-immersion approach, with a local teacher and a native English-speaking teacher in each classroom. Antony Yim Sue-fung, supervisor for Learning Habitat, said: 'According to research children can start learning a second language at age one.' By the end of kindergarten they could talk with confidence to their teachers, were advanced in reading and ready to learn in English. Some went on to ESF and other international schools, and others to local. Maggie Koong May-kay, chief principal of Victoria, said research showed that learning in two languages from a young age had other benefits. 'Children will have a cognitive advantage. They are more flexible in their thinking, and more responsive.' The co-teaching approach is now being introduced in the group's primary school. Choosing kindergartens is tough, said Dr Tse Shek-kam, associate dean of the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Education. 'There's no clear policy from government to most kindergartens on how to teach language, and so the teaching levels are quite varied. Large class sizes also affect language teaching. Parents need to decide whether their home environment is going to support learning that second language, and whether they have the knowledge to help too.'