Pre-primary education refers to planned education and care provided the year preceding the start of compulsory education, which is directly related to early childhood education and care as well as primary education. The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for preparing and amending legislation that applies to pre-primary education.
Local authorities have a statutory duty under the Basic Education Act to organise pre-primary education for all their residents who reach the age of seven in each given year, which is when compulsory education starts in Finland. Children with special educational needs have the right to enter pre-primary education the calendar year they turn five. The Basic Education Act includes provisions on pre-primary education. Pre-primary education normally lasts for one year and it consists of a minimum of 700 hours a year.
Children must take part in pre-primary education or other activities that meet the objectives for pre-primary education the year preceding the start of their compulsory education. Pre-primary education that is provided under the Basic Education Act is free of charge. The parents or guardians of the child are responsible for making sure that the child takes part in pre-primary education or other activities that meet the objectives for pre-primary education.
Provisions on how to apply for pre-primary education and on the formation of teaching groups in pre-primary education may be issued by government decree.
Children taking part pre-primary education who are entitled to full-time early childhood education and care or early childhood education and care exceeding 20 hours a week can also attend other pre-primary education.
The state helps cover the costs related to pre-primary education by means of central government transfers to education providers as provided in the Act on Central Government Transfers to Local Government for Basic Public Services.
Organising pre-primary education
Under the Basic Education Act, the Finnish National Agency for Education prepares and approves the National Core Curriculum for Pre-primary Education, which sets out the objectives for pre-primary education, steers the planning of the content for pre-primary education, and forms the basis for local curricula.
Local authorities decide whether pre-primary education is organised in an early childhood education and care centre, a school or some other suitable location. Local authorities may also outsource pre-primary education from a private early childhood education and care centre, for instance. Private basic education providers and state educational institutions may also granted authority to organise pre-primary education.
Children taking part in pre-primary education are entitled to free transportation or to a sufficient subsidy to help cover the costs of transportation to the place where the pre-primary education is being provided if the journey is over five kilometres long or if the route is too difficult, strenuous or dangerous for the children to travel on their own.
In accordance with a recommendation by the Ministry of Education and Culture, a pre-primary education group may include at most 13 children if there is one teacher or at most 20 children if there is another adequately trained adult besides the teacher in the group. As a rule, class teachers and qualified kindergarten teachers are the only ones entitled to provide pre-primary education if no schoolchildren attending compulsory education are present in the group.