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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Organisational variations and alternative structures in ECEC


4.Early childhood education and care

4.5Organisational variations and alternative structures in ECEC

Last update: 27 November 2023

The national curriculum for preschool child care institutions allows ECEC institutions to apply alternative pedagogy. Some of the privately owned ECEC institutions use alternative pedagogical methods that correspond to the institution's general approach (Waldorf-preschools, Christian ECEC institutions, etc.). The most widespread methodologies put into practice in preschool child care institutions are the so-called StepbyStep Methodology, Reggio Emilia approach and Montessori approach, the environment of which allows also the application of other active teaching methodologies (discovery learning).

Alternative pedagogy is also implemented in ECEC institutions for children with special needs. Pedagogues are responsible for the effectiveness of the methods of instruction they use.

Among private ECEC institutions, also English language based ECEC institutions exist (for children of the international community).

Most ECEC institutions where the language of instruction is Russian are municipal institutions. Traditionally, ECEC institutions have been divided according to the language of instruction into Estonian and Russian, or they were mixed. The need for forming groups with Russian as the language of instruction is consistently diminishing since an increasing number of parents want their children to attend groups instructed in Estonian. Since 2009, the state has financed studies of Estonian as a second language in ECEC institutions, including the purchase of study materials. Support has been allocated for providing language training for 3-7-year-old children in groups with a language of instruction other than Estonian and promoting language immersion and to groups providing support study of Estonian as a second language.  

With a view to ensuring access to high-quality preschool education and childcare for all children aged 1.5 to 7 years whose parents so request, a common preschool and childcare system based on the needs of children and families is being developed. The provisions regulating childcare services will be removed from the Social Welfare Act and ECEC institutions and childcare service providers will be subject to a common Preschool Education Act, which decreases over-regulation and provides local governments with greater decision-making powers on organisational issues. The professional standard for childcarers has been revised and increased attention has been devoted to the competencies related to supporting a child’s development and special needs.