All children in Estonia have the right to obtain high-quality early childhood education (preschool education, according to Preschool Education Act). Local governments have the duty to ensure all children aged 1.5 to 7 years residing in their catchment area and whose parents so wish an opportunity to attend a preschool.
Estonian preschools offer integrated programmes that include education and childcare services at ISCED levels 010‒020. Preschool education is based on the national curriculum and is under the administration of the Ministry of Education and Research.
Attending a preschool is not obligatory. However, the majority (nearly 94%) of the children aged 4 to 7 participate in ECEC (Estonian Education Information System 2020). Preschool attendance among children aged 1.5 to 3 years is 81% (Estonian Education Information System 2020). For a child under 3 years of age, a parent may apply for daycare services instead of a place in a preschool.
A childcare service was developed in Estonia in 2006/2007 and implemented in 2006 as a social service. According to the data of the Ministry of Social Affairs, 10% of 1.5-3-year-old children are in childcare in 2020.
In both preschools and childcare service, parents cover the enrolment fee and the cost of meals. The fee differs by the age of the child and depends on the administration costs of the institution and other aspects, but it may not amount to more than 20% of the minimum wage rate.