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. 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.

Every child has the right to 20 hours of early childhood education and care a week. If the child's parents or other guardians work or study full-time, work as entrepreneurs or are self-employed on a full-time basis, their child has the right to full-day early childhood education and care.

A child also has the right to full-day early childhood education and care where it is necessary for the child's development, where the child needs the provided support, where the family conditions so require, or where it is otherwise in the child's best interests. If a parent becomes unemployed the child’s right to full-day early childhood education and care remains effective for a period of two months.

When necessary, a child has the right to more than 20 hours of early childhood education and care if the child's parent or other guardian works part-time, has temporary work periods, is involved in labour market measures, is in rehabilitation or where other similar reasons exist.

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.

Right to early childhood education and care after 1 August 2020

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 will be reinstated for all children. For example, the child of a parent who is unemployed or on childcare leave will then be entitled to full-time early childhood education and care.

Furthermore, the situation of each family will no longer have a bearing on the level of financial support for private care.

The amendment relates to the entry in the Government Programmes of Prime Minister Rinne and Prime Minister Marin on the subjective right to full-time early childhood education and care.

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