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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Early childhood education and care


4.Early childhood education and care

Last update: 22 February 2024

Early childhood education and care 

All children have a right to ECEC

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Iceland is based on an integrated approach to education and care. The 2008 Preschool Act defines ECEC as a planned and goal-oriented part of education, upbringing and care, with an emphasis on pedagogy and learning through play. Up to the age of 6 years, children can attend ECEC centres (leikskóli), which fall under the overall responsibility of the Ministry of Education and Children. Although not compulsory, ECEC is defined as the first level of education in Iceland. It is classified as International Standard Classification of Education level 0. Municipal ECEC centres are the primary settings of ECEC services. Although there is no legal entitlement of a child to ECEC services at a given age enshrined in law, municipalities commit politically to providing a place in an ECEC setting when children are 18–36 months of age.

All centre-based ECEC settings operate in accordance with the 2008 Preschool Act and follow an educational programme, the national curriculum guide, issued by the Ministry of Education and Children

There is also a system of regulated and publicly subsidised home-based provision (dagforeldrar) aimed at the youngest children (from birth to the age of 2 years), which falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.

ECEC is guided by a national core curriculum

The Pre-primary School Act and the national curriculum guide for this stage describe the core aims of the education of young children, namely to:

  • monitor and encourage children’s general development in close cooperation with parents and guardians;
  • provide systematic linguistic stimulation and contribute to general skills in the Icelandic language;
  • provide children with mental, intellectual and physical care according to the needs of the individual child, so that they may enjoy their childhood;
  • encourage children’s broad-mindedness and strengthen their moral values;
  • lay the foundation necessary for children to become independent, autonomous, active and responsible participants in a democratic society that is undergoing rapid and continuous development;
  • cultivate children’s expressive and creative abilities with the aim of strengthening their self-esteem, health awareness, confidence and communication skills.