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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Early childhood education and care


4.Early childhood education and care

Last update: 27 November 2023

All children have a right to ECEC

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Finland is based on an integrated approach to education and care, the so-called “educare” model. The legislation defines ECEC as a planned and goal-oriented entity of education, upbringing and care, with an emphasis on pedagogy.

All children under school-age have a legal entitlement to full-time early childhood education and care in an early education centre or a family daycare premise. Municipalities have a statutory duty to provide ECEC services according to the local need.

Both forms of ECEC cater for children of different ages (integrated ISCED 010 and 020). The age range of children in the same ECEC setting may vary from less than one year to 7 years. 

After the parental leave period, when the child is usually 9 or 10 months, parents have several options to choose from:

  • Municipal ECEC services
  • Private ECEC services or child care with the private child care allowance
  • Staying at home on care leave and child home care allowance until the youngest child turns three.

The majority of children are enrolled in municipal early education centres. Families pay fees for ECEC. The fees vary between 0 – 295 € in full-day provision depending on the size and income.  In private ECEC fees are usually higher.

Participation in different forms of ECEC, % of all children in ECEC (2021)

  • municipal ECEC 81%
  • private ECEC 19%
  • early education centres 94%
  • family daycare 6%

Source: Vipunen - Education Statistics Finland


One-year compulsory pre-primary education smooths the transition to school

One year of pre-primary education (ISCED 020) is systematic instruction provided in the year preceding the start of comprehensive school (single-structure primary and lower secondary education). 

Children enter pre-primary education in August of the year they turn 6. Participation in pre-primary education or corresponding activities has been mandatory since August 2015. Pre-primary education is free of charge.

Pre-primary education is organised both in early education centres and in schools. The national core curriculum governing pre-primary education is the same regardless of the setting. Most children attend pre-primary education in early education centres.

The scope of pre-primary education is usually 4 hours a day. Most children in pre-primary education are also enrolled in other early childhood education and care to make up a full day.

ECEC and pre-primary education guided by a national core curriculum

The reformed Act on Early Childhood Education and Care (540/2018) and a binding National Core Curriculum for Early Childhood Education and Care (2022) guide the development of ECEC content in greater detail and a more goal-oriented manner than before. Municipalities and other providers must prepare their local curricula based on the national core curriculum.

The Ministry of Education and Culture has the overall responsibility for early childhood education and care including pre-primary education.  

The same national core curriculum guides the provision of all ECEC regardless of the age group or setting. There is a separate  National Core Curriculum for Pre-Primary Education (2014)