Admission requirements and choice of ECEC setting
All children aged 1.5 to 7 years have the right to attend ECEC. Crèche (ISCED 010, 1.5‒3 years) and preschool groups (ISCED 020, 3‒6 years) are in the same ECEC institutions.
ECEC Parents are free to choose an ECEC institution for their child if there are vacant places in the institution they wish their child to attend. Admission and dismissal procedures and catchment areas of ECEC institutions are established by the municipality or city government. Parents need to apply for admission. As ECEC institutions work in the rhythm of an academic year, deadlines for submission of applications are generally established.
Allocation of places by local governments is based on the preference of parents, as well as on proximity to home or parents´ workplace. A rural municipality or city government first admits children residing in the catchment area of the ECEC institution. If possible, children whose siblings attend the same ECEC institution are preferred. If vacant places exist after the admission of children residing in the catchment area, children from outside the catchment area are admitted, preferring first the children residing in the same rural municipality or city and thereafter children whose parents are employed in the catchment area.
Children with special educational needs are admitted to integration or special group on the basis of a written application of a parent and a decision of the advisory committee. The procedure and principles for admission of children to and their exclusion from a special preschool or group have been established by a regulation of the Minister of Education and Research.
In the case of childcare services, the parent and the childcare service provider agree on the childcare conditions, incl. admission.
Group size and child/staff ratios
Based on needs and possibilities, crèche and preschool groups are formed in ECEC institutions.
Crèche groups are for children of up to 3 years of age.
Preschool groups are divided by age:
- Children between three and six years of age;
- Children between six and seven years of age and the children for whom the start of compulsory education has been postponed.
Parents or guardians may submit proposals for the formation of mixed groups. Mixed groups include crèche-aged and preschool-aged children.
On the proposal of the director of a child care institution, a rural municipality or city government may, as required, establish integration groups in ECEC institutions where children with special needs learn together with other children, and groups for children with special needs.
The number of children in a group:
- Up to 14 children in a crèche group,
- Up to 20 children in a preschool group,
- Up to 18 children in a mixed group,
- Up to 12 children in a group for children with physical disabilities.
With a view to ensuring children a safe environment, a person employed in the field of learning and teaching (core practitioner) or an employee assisting the teacher (assistant) is in a crèche group together with up to seven children, in a mixed group together with up to nine children, in a preschool group together with up to ten children, in an integration group together with up to eight children and in a group for children with special needs together with two to six children, depending on the special needs of the children. The qualification requirements for an ECEC teacher are higher education (ISCED 6) and pedagogical competence. No minimum qualification level is required for assistants.
The number of teachers and assistant teachers in a group is based on the ratios established by law. For children up to 3 years of age, the respective ratio is 1:7 and for children aged 3 or over, 1:10. A teacher must have higher education and pedagogical competence. Support of a speech therapist and a special education teacher is also ensured for the children.
Teachers and personnel work in close cooperation with parents in order to create a learning environment that supports the development of the child. In addition to the daily communication, parents are also involved in the yearly child evaluations and can participate in the activities of the board of trustees of the preschool institution.
Annual, weekly and daily organisation
The school year begins on 1 September and lasts from the start of studies in one calendar year until the start of new studies in the next calendar year.
The curriculum of an ECEC institution does not determine the number of teaching and learning activities per week nor the daily organisation thereof. Planning of teaching and learning of a group is flexible and enables the teacher to make changes if necessary. Teaching and learning form an integrated process throughout the day a child spends in an ECEC institution and lessons are not separated from the rest of the activities.
Teaching and learning at an ECEC institution are based on the daily schedule of the group. In the daily routine play, free time, and teaching and learning planned by a teacher alternate. The daily schedule is based on the curriculum of the child care institution taking into consideration health protection requirements, opening hours of the child care institution as well as age and individual needs of the children.
The daily includes a period when children should arrive at the ECEC institution and the time they have to leave. The daily schedule for children aged 1 to 3 includes time for sleep at least once a day. Older children have at least one hour of rest for sleeping or other quiet activities. Recommendations on healthy eating and time to be spent outdoors are taken into account. Every day, children stay outside once or twice a day depending on the weather conditions.
The opening hours of a preschool institution are decided by the local government on the basis of a proposal from the board of trustees. A typical day is organised as follows:
09:00-12:00 learning and outdoors activities
13:00-15:00 sleep/rest/quiet activities
15:00-18:00 individual activities, hobby education, free play
Based on the proposal of the board of trustees and the need of the families in the area, the local government can decide whether an ECEC institution operates permanently or seasonally.
The annual, weekly and daily organisation of childcare service is not regulated and is based on the needs of parents: during the day, in the evening, weekend, or around the clock.