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Reviewers:
Lower fees in early childhood education and care, children to pre-school at age 5, higher skills and quality

Ministry of Education and Culture 29.6.2017 12.00 | Published in English on 5.7.2017 at 8.25
Press release
Lower fees in early childhood education and care, children to pre-school at age 5, higher skills and quality
Kuva: Rodeo

Professor Kirsti Karila, Research Director Tuomas Kosonen and Director for Early Childhood Education and Care Satu Järvenkallas have submitted to the Ministry of Education and Culture a proposal for a roadmap for early childhood education and care until 2030. According to the reviewers, the participation rate in early childhood education and care should be raised and the structure, numbers, qualifications and skills of personnel should be further developed. The reviewers submitted their report to Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen on Thursday.

Early childhood education and care is a good investment for society, according to the report, because children’s development and learning are very intensive at early age. Positive development in early childhood can be supported and potential problems prevented, and early childhood education and care play a key role in preventing social exclusion and ensuring equal opportunities in education. However, positive effects require high quality early childhood education and care.

“At national and international levels we have more research evidence and a better understanding of the significance of children’s early years and early childhood education and care. Developing early childhood education and care is, in a manner of speaking, a comprehensive school reform for the future; it reinforces equal opportunities in education, prevents social exclusion and promotes equal learning capacities,” says Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen.

Finnish children attend early childhood education and care clearly less than children in other EU member states and the Nordic countries. Only 27.9% of children under the age of 3 attend early childhood education and care in Finland, which is well below the rates in other Nordic countries (Norway 54.7% and Sweden 46.9%).

The corresponding rate for children aged 3–5 is 95% in the other Nordic countries and 73.8% in Finland. The Finnish participation rates are also below the average for the Euro area and the OECD. Low-income families and low-skilled mothers are, in relative terms, the least likely to place their children in early childhood education and care.

Lower fees and a shorter term for home care allowance, children to pre-school at age 5

As measures to raise the participation rate in early childhood education and care, the reviewers propose that fees be further reduced and the period of eligibility for home care allowance be shortened by one year.

The reviewers propose a further reduction in fees to increase the participation rate. The Government decided in its mid-term policy review session to further reduce the fees for low-income families as of 1 January 2018. The reviewers would reduce the progressiveness of fees and raise the highest fees to improve the incentives for work.

The period of eligibility for home care allowance and childcare leave should be reduced to two years, according to the reviewers, to give parents incentives for work and for placing their children in early childhood education and care. Currently a parent can receive home care allowance and childcare leave until the youngest child turns three years of age. Home care allowance is particularly popular in those population groups where the children would benefit from earlier participation in early childhood education and care, according to the reviewers’ estimate.

The shorter period of home care allowance would bring 5,500 children into early childhood education and care, more than 4,000 mothers would enter working life, more taxes and fees would be paid, and the expenditure on home care allowance would be cut down by some EUR 130 million.

In the long term, the participation rate in early childhood education and care would be raised by increasing flexibility at work for families with children and by reforming the systems of social assistance and housing allowance.

The reviewers would give 5-year-olds access to pre-primary education free of charge. Currently pre-primary education is free of charge for 20 hours a week, and it has been compulsory for all 6-year-olds since 2015. The first year of pre-primary education could be voluntary, while the second year before the age of compulsory education could be compulsory.

More university education for teachers

High-quality early childhood education and care requires versatile skills. The skills and training of personnel in early childhood education and care are developed by improving training for personnel and by revising the qualification requirements.

The reviewers propose that every group of children would have at least one teacher with a university degree in education. The groups should also have personnel with early childhood education and care qualifications from universities of applied sciences and from upper secondary vocational education. Special needs teachers in early childhood education and care would either provide consultation or act as group leaders as experts in children's special needs. Day-care centre managers would be responsible for the operational side of early childhood education and care.

The reviewers propose that universities increase gradually the number of bachelor’s degrees that qualify for teaching in early childhood education and care. They further propose as a long-term objective that only master’s degrees would qualify for teaching in early childhood education and care and that a permanent continuing education system would be created for early childhood education and care.

The Ministry of Education and Culture and the universities have already agreed to raise the number of students admitted to kindergarten teacher training by one third. In the government discussion on spending limits in April 2017, the Government decided to grant a total of EUR 28 million for a period of four years for the purpose of developing the personnel structure in early childhood education and care.

Inquiries (reviewers):
- Satu Järvenkallas, tel. +358 50 566 4391
- Kirsti Karila, tel. +358 50 396 9675
- Tuomas Kosonen, tel. +358 40 940 2336
 
The report (in Finnish) is available online at urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-263-487-0