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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
National reforms in early childhood education and care


14.Ongoing reforms and policy developments

14.1National reforms in early childhood education and care

Last update: 27 November 2023


Changes to the national curriculum for preschools prepare for the transition to Estonian-medium education

From the 1st of September 2024, an amendment to the Preschool Childcare Institutions Act will enter into force, stipulating that educational activities in kindergartens take place in the Estonian language. Establishing Estonian as the language of instruction in municipal kindergartens is part of the transition to Estonian-medium education in kindergartens and schools with another language of instruction. The language of instruction in kindergarten can be different from Estonian only in private kindergartens and municipal kindergartens based on a special government permit.

In 2022/23, nearly 69,000 children participate ECEC in Estonia, 81% of whom have Estonian as a language of instruction, 13% Russian, and nearly 6% attend language immersion groups. According to the changes to the national curriculum for ECEC, starting from 01.09.2024, Estonian-medium kindergartens must support the acquisition of the Estonian language of children with a different home language through integrated learning and educational activities and, if necessary, specific language learning activities. The national curriculum no longer stipulates language learning methodologies, as well as language learning support, because these can be determined by the kindergarten in its curriculum. Specific language learning activities include individual support of the child, if necessary.

Estonian-medium preschool education is considered to be a crucial prerequisite to a successful transition to school and school success.

See more about the activities related to the transition to Estonian-medium education in National reforms in school education.


There have been no reforms.


Kindergartens are generally valued by the parents, but there is a great shortage of support professionals

The recent study maps the use, accessibility and flexibility of nursery and childcare service as well as the needs of parents in this regard, and presents a prognosis for childcare needs in Estonia until 2030. The current study is a follow-up study of a similar study carried out in 2015. Estonian parents are in favor of their children attending kindergarten. Pre-school childcare is mainly organised in kindergartens run by local authorities. Almost half of the parents use free help from relatives, friends and acquaintances in parallel with kindergarten or child care facility. The availability of kindergarten and childcare facilities is at the same level as in the 2015 survey.

Most parents think that all children should attend kindergarten or pre-school at least a year before school. 3% or about 400 children do not have any pre-school education in kindergarten or pre-school. However, only about half of the parents support obligatory kindergarten from the age of 3, and compared to the previous survey, it has not changed significantly.

The lack of support specialists was again pointed out as a problem - according to the survey, there are on average 222 children per speech therapist in local auhtority kindergartens and 471 children per special teacher. According to parents, only about half of children who need the help of a support specialist can use the services. To alleviate the problem, a reform of the support system for children with special needs has been launched.

In 2019, the kindergarten fee collected from parents covered 13% of the local authority kindergarten arrangement costs. Fees vary from region to region and this is also the reason for the difference in satisfaction - the higher the fee, the lower the parental satisfaction. About 20% of parents are not satisfied with the fee at all.

According to the Estonian Education Information System, in 2019 there were 7,348 kindergarten teachers and 3,950 assistant teachers in Estonia, i.e. an average of 8 children per teacher and 16 children per assistant teacher in a group. For the survey, queries were made to state registers and both local authority officials and parents were interviewed.

See the summary of the report

The support system for children with special needs is being renewed

The Ministry of Education and Research and the Ministry of Social Affairs are starting to reform support services for children with special needs (SN). The aim of the changes is to provide children with faster, more effective and comprehensive assistance. The reform plans to combine social and educational assessments and organisation of services to provide comprehensive support to children according to their needs. The support system for children with SN has been too fragmented, time-consuming and bureaucratic. Over the next two years, changes are planned in both legislation and practice to prioritise the needs of children and families in the organisation of support services, reduce the burden on parents to apply for support services, and shift the focus to early detection of problems. Cooperation in the fields of education, social affairs and health can reduce duplication and reduce the fragmentation of services.

Methodology centres support the professional development and counselling of Estonian language teachers teaching children with a different mother tongue

As a result of a competition held by the Education and Youth Board, six preschools were chosen to provide support to teachers teaching the Estonian language to children with a different mother tongue in different Estonian regions. These preschools acting as methodology centres will provide assistance to Estonian- or Russian-language preschools teaching Estonian as a second language or enrolling children with a different mother tongue. Teachers will be provided with thematic counselling, training courses, workshops, and training visits. The centres will also lend out methodological literature and teaching materials. The competition was held for the third time.