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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Early childhood education and care


4.Early childhood education and care

Last update: 5 March 2024

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) is provided in two separate phases according to children’s ages, each being under the responsibility of a different competent authority.

Childcare for children under 2-3 years old

Childcare arrangements for infants (less than 2-3 years of age) are regulated by the Ministry of Solidarity and Health. Various forms of care for infants are offered.

Childminders provide most of the childcare for this age group, but nurseries (crèches) are also available. The so-called collective childcare structures (collective or parental crèches) are created and managed, in the majority of cases, by local authorities or by non-profit associations. The maximum number of children per facility differ greatly between the different types of facilities (see 4.2). The childcare services are not part of the ISCED classification.

Pre-primary education for children from 2-3 years old (until 6 years old)

Pre-primary education, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of National Education, is carried out in pre-primary school (écoles maternelles). These structures are classified as ISCED 02, and the pupils follow teaching programmes that are set by the ministry in charge of education. Children are welcomed there from around 3 years old and up to 6 years old. Children from 2 years old can also be admitted, subject to availability. The law of July 26, 2019 for a school of trust sets the obligation of compulsory education from the age of 3 years from the start of the 2019 school year.

Pre-primary school is free when it is public.