Children's right to early childhood education and care

The right of children to early childhood education and care (ECEC) and the objectives for ECEC are laid down in the Act on Early Childhood Education and Care (540/2018). A child's parents or other guardians decide whether their child participates in early childhood education and care. However, pre-primary education that precedes compulsory education is obligatory.

Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that early childhood education and care is available to their residents and that it meets the needs of families and is arranged and supervised by the local authorities.

An amendment to the Act on Early Childhood Education and Care, effective as of 1 August 2020, means that equal access to early childhood education and care is reinstated for all children. For example, the child of a parent who is unemployed or on childcare leave is entitled to full-time early childhood education and care. Furthermore, the situation of each family no longer has a bearing on the level of financial support for private care.

Local authorities establish the schedules and practices for early childhood education and care.  

Applications for a place in a child daycare centre or in family daycare are submitted to the local authorities of the family’s municipality of residence four months before the place is needed. Where a parent unexpectedly finds a job or starts studying, their child will be granted a place in a child daycare centre or family daycare within a fortnight.

For more detailed instructions on early childhood education and care services and application for these, please contact your municipality.

Contact information

Tarja Kahiluoto, opetusneuvos 
Ministry of Education and Culture, Varhaiskasvatuksen, perusopetuksen ja vapaan sivistystyön osasto ( VAPOS ), Koulutuksen ja kasvatuksen vastuualue 0295330386  


Kirsi Alila, opetusneuvos 
Ministry of Education and Culture, Varhaiskasvatuksen, perusopetuksen ja vapaan sivistystyön osasto ( VAPOS ), Koulutuksen ja kasvatuksen vastuualue 0295330365