4.3.1. Steering documents
The Framework Plan for Kindergartens states the fundamental principles, goals, learning content, and activities for all kindergartens, both public and private. Also, included in the framework plan are the political and social functions of the institutions and the importance of early childhood as a life phase of intrinsic value.
According to the Kindergarten Act, the children themselves have a legal right to participate in all discussions concerning their daily lives in kindergartens.
Each kindergarten must establish an annual activity plan based on the framework plan. This plan must explain the kindergarten's approaches to care, play, formative assessment and learning. It must be approved by the kindergarten’s coordinating committee.
4.3.2. Areas of learning and development
Kindergartens must take a holistic view of care, upbringing, learning, and social and linguistic skills. Kindergartens must be cultural arenas in which children help to create their own culture. The Framework Plan for Kindergartens recommends seven basic themes or learning areas that all children should be acquainted with:
- communication, language and text,
- body, movement and health,
- art, culture and creativity,
- nature, environment and technology,
- ethics, religion and philosophy,
- local community and society,
- numbers, spaces and shapes.
Within each subject area, there are developmental goals established at national level. The daily programme consists of free time to play, outdoor activities, playing in groups, supervised activities, meals, reading and show-and-tell time. The time spent on these activities varies, according to local needs and the children’s attendance time. Cooperation with local schools is common, for instance on using swimming pools and gymnasiums. Kindergartens also make use of theatres, cinemas, museums, parks, and other local facilities to enable children to familiarize themselves with their local environment.
4.3.3. Pedagogical approaches
The Framework Plan for Kindergartens recommends play and social activities as important methods of learning and development for pre-primary children. Staff are free to choose methods within the framework of the national plan. Play is considered both a learning method and an important way for children to acquire life skills.
Most kindergartens base their activities on the aim of helping children to develop a range of skills and interpersonal relations. Most groups consist of children of different ages and at different stages in their development, and the staff often balance organised activities and free playing activities.
There is no formal assessment of children at the pre-primary level. Kindergarten teachers must ensure that the parents or guardians and the kindergarten have a regular opportunity to exchange observations and evaluations concerning every child’s health, well-being, experiences, development, and learning. The kindergarten must justify its evaluations to the parents or guardians and consider their views. This information is normally conveyed through conversations when the parents or guardians pick up and drop off their children at kindergarten and in more formal meetings to which the parents or guardians are invited. If the teachers find that a child is not developing well or is having problems, they are responsible for discussing their perception of this problem with the parents or guardians.
Kindergartens must evaluate their pedagogical practices on a regular basis, which means that they must describe, analyse and interpret their pedagogical practices in the light of their plans, the Kindergarten Act, and the Framework Plan for Kindergartens. The main purpose of these evaluations is to ensure that all children are covered by the rules set out in the Kindergarten Act and the framework plan.
Knowledge of the well-being and all-round development of the children individually and in groups is important to ensure individualised kindergarten provision for all children in line with the Kindergarten Act and the Framework Plan. Every child’s well-being and all-round development must, therefore, be monitored and assessed regularly, taking into account the child’s individual circumstances and the staff’s knowledge of children’s development and needs. The child’s experiences and opinions form part of the evaluation material. Staff in kindergartens have a duty of disclosure to social services/child welfare service if they identify the need for their involvement.
4.3.5. Transition to primary school
The Kindergarten Act section 2 A regulates kindergartens' duty to collaborate with schools regarding children's transition to primary school. The Framework Plan, chapter 6 Transitions states, inter alia, that the kindergarten and the school should share knowledge and information to enable them to co-operate on provision for the oldest kindergarten children, their transition to and enrolment in school. Kindergartens must ensure that children acquire the experience, knowledge and skills to give them a good foundation and motivation for starting school.