Place guarantee to ECEC
All children under school-age have a right to publicly subsidised early childhood education and care if their parents so decide. The universal entitlement to full time ECEC starts after the end of parental leave period when the child is usually 9 or 10 months old. In practice, most children start later (from around age 2) because parents are entitled to a child home care leave and allowance until the youngest child in the family turns three. Home care allowance is also paid for older siblings if they are cared for at home
Under the Act on ECEC (540/2018), municipalities have a statutory duty to ensure that there are enough ECEC places to meet the local demand. The ECEC places can be in ECEC centres or family daycare premises. Municipalities can organise the ECEC services themselves or procure them from other public or private providers. They may also use service vouchers to pay compensation for private service providers. Municipalities should try to organise ECEC near the users of the service.
Municipalities are responsible for providing ECEC for children residing in their area in the official languages of Finland: Finnish, Swedish and Sámi. ECEC can be organised in other languages as well. ECEC aims at supporting children’s varying cultural and linguistic identities.
The annual operation and daily opening hours of ECEC centres must be organised so that they meet the local needs. As a rule, the child’s day in ECEC should not exceed 10 hours. Municipalities also provide evening, over-night and weekend care for children whose parents work shifts.
Participation in ECEC is voluntary except for the one-year pre-primary education prior to the start of school.
Pre-primary education for six-year-olds
Participation in pre-primary education in the year preceding the start of basic education has been mandatory since August 2015. Parents have the responsibility to ensure that the children participate in pre-primary education or some other form of activities meeting the goals of pre-primary education.
Municipalities, on the other hand, have a statutory duty to provide free pre-primary education to children living in their area in the year prior to basic education (Basic Education Act 628/1998). Municipalities can organise pre-primary education themselves or purchase the service.
The duration of pre-primary education is normally one school year, and it is provided for the minimum of 700. Pre-primary education is usually provided 4 hours a day during school weeks. Municipalities must ensure that children in pre-primary education have access to complementary ECEC services. Most children in pre-primary education also attend ECEC to make a full day and year.
Education must be arranged so that children can travel to pre-primary education as safely and shortly as possible also considering the children’s access to complementary ECEC services. Municipalities have to offer children free transport, if the distance to pre-primary education place exceeds 5 km or if the route is otherwise dangerous.
Pre-primary education is provided both in Finnish and Swedish, depending on the child’s mother tongue. The language of instruction may also be Sámi, Roma or sign language. Instruction may also be provided in other languages if it does not risk the children's possibilities to follow instruction. Children's varying linguistic and cultural backgrounds and capabilities are taken into account in pre-primary education.
Municipalities can organise ECEC themselves or purchase the service. The fees in municipal ECEC are regulated by the Act on Client Fees in Early Childhood Education and Care (1503/2016). The same law applies to both ECEC centres and family daycare premises.
The fees in full-time municipal ECEC vary between 0 and 288 € per month depending on the size and income of the family. Fees are smaller in part-time ECEC. The fees include meals and learning materials. Low-income families don’t pay any fees.
Families can also opt for private service providers. In private ECEC fees are usually higher.
Pre-primary education for six-year-olds
Pre-primary education in the year preceding the start of school is free. Also learning materials and daily meals are provided free of charge. Municipalities have to offer children free transportation, if the distance to pre-primary education place exceeds 5 km or if the route is otherwise dangerous.
Pre-primary education is a half-day programme, usually 4 hours per day. Municipalities must ensure that children in pre-primary education have access to complementary ECEC services if necessary. The Act on client fees in ECEC applies to these ECEC services.