Early childhood education and care

All children under school-age have a subjective right to early childhood education and care (ECEC) should their parents so decide. The municipalities are responsible for arranging the ECEC services, for their quality and supervision. Families can also opt for publicly subsidised private ECEC settings. The Finnish ECEC is based on an integrated approach to care, education and teaching, the so-called “educare” model. Learning through play is essential.

ECEC is primarily organised in day-care centres and in family day-care. Other forms of ECEC services include clubs run by the local parishes and other non-governmental organisations and the various forms of open early childhood education activities organised by the municipalities for children and their families. The content of ECEC is guided by the National Curriculum Guidelines on ECEC (2005). Participation in ECEC is subject to a fee which depends on family income and the number of children. Client fees in municipal ECEC cover about 14 percent of the total costs.

Pre-primary education is compulsory from August 2015

Pre-primary education as part of the ECEC is the systematic education and instruction provided in the year preceding the start of compulsory education. Pre-primary education is organised in day-care centres and schools. Providing a place in pre-primary education free of charge for all children is a statutory duty for municipalities. Participation became compulsory in August 2015. Nearly all 6-year-olds were, however, enrolled already when pre-primary education was voluntary.

Education is based on a local curriculum drawn up within the framework of the National Core Curriculum for Pre-primary Education (2010). The core curriculum has been revised as part of a wider curricular reform in general education. The new National Core Curriculum for Pre-primary Education (2014, available in Finnish Esiopetuksen opetussuunnitelman perusteet 2014) will be implemented as from 2016. Early childhood education and care, pre-primary and basic education form an integrated whole progressing consistently following the child’s development.

At national level ECEC is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Culture. A revised Act on Early Childhood Education and Care was adopted in spring 2015. Based on the new legislation, the Finnish National Board of Education became the national expert agency for ECEC in August 2015 and started the preparation of a National Core Curriculum for ECEC.