The goals of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Serbia are to support:
- the overall development and well-being of preschool-aged children, by providing incentives for the development of children’s abilities, enriching experiences and knowledge about themselves, people and the world;
- the role of the family in children’s upbringing;
- further education and care and integration into society;
- the development of children’s potential as a crucial factor in individual and societal progress.
According to the Law on Preschool Education, ECEC (International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED level 0) is intended for children from 6 months to 6.5 years of age, when they start their primary education. ECEC consists of three levels, determined by the age of the children: nursery (for children aged 6 months to 3 years), kindergarten (for children aged 3–5.5 years) and preschool preparatory programme classes (for children over 5.5 years of age). The preschool preparatory programme is mandatory for all children and free if children participate in a daily 4-hour programme. It may be delivered in ECEC institutions or primary schools.
Since ECEC in Serbia is a public service, many ECEC institutions are founded by the state or by local authorities. Private ECEC institutions are also available. ECEC institutions are responsible for providing meals, care, preventive healthcare and social protection services for children. ECEC falls under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, which provides educational guidelines for the whole ECEC phase.