Monday, November 28, 2011
Children's playgroups (preschool 10.10.1988
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Finland has two main goals. One is to fulfil the day care needs of children under school age and the other is to provide early childhood education. And the FDC given to me by Merja was issued on 10.10.1988 to commemorate this very important feature of Finnish Life.
Since 1973, the Act on Children’s Day Care has provided a framework for the implementation of day care. The Act clearly defines the physical setting for the provision of day care and the educational objectives. According to the act the objectives of day care promote the balanced development of children together with their parents. For its part, day care shall provide children with safe and warm relationships; activities supporting children's development in a versatile manner, as well as a favourable growth environment based on individual children's circumstances.
Day care in its different forms is the most important area of public ECEC activities. The Finnish ECEC-system consists of municipal and private services. Municipalities must offer day care in the official languages of Finland: Finnish, Swedish and Sàmi. Day care should also support the language and culture of speakers of Romany and children of immigrant background. Municipal day care is provided at day care centres and in family day care. Several local authorities also organise supervised play activities open to everyone in playgrounds and at open day care centres. The day care fees are based on family size and income level. Families with low incomes are charged no fee. Client fees cover about 15 percent of the total day care costs.
As of 1996, the parents of all children under school age have enjoyed the right to a place in day care for their child provided by their local authority. Since August 1997, it has also been possible for families to receive a private childcare allowance in order to provide their children with private care.
Pre-school education signifies the systematic education and instruction provided in the year preceding the commencement of compulsory education, which usually commences in August of the calendar year of a child’s 7th birthday. Voluntary pre-school education that is free of charge is provided in every municipality since August 2001 at an amount of no less than 700 hours per year.
Since the 1960’s the possibility for parents to stay at home to care for their newborn and small children has gradually improved. For this purpose, first maternity allowance and leave is granted and since 1989 maternity, paternity and parental leaves and allowances are available. The right to keep one's job during care leave is protected by law. In addition, since 1985 parents have been able to arrange the care of their children by means of the child home care allowance. The child home care allowance can be granted immediately after the parental allowance period ends and can be paid until the youngest child in the family is three years old or enters municipal day care.
After the parental leave period, families are therefore provided with three different options until the child begins compulsory school:
1. Caring for the child at home on care leave and receiving child home care allowance (until the youngest child turns three years)
2. Having the child cared for in private day care with the private child care allowance
3. Having the child cared for in municipal day care.
Well-educated and multi-disciplinary staff is one of the strengths of the Finnish day care system. The staffs in day care centres is required to have at least a secondary-level degree in the field of social welfare and health care. One in three of the staff must have a post-secondary level degree (Bachelor of Education, Master of Education or Bachelor of Social Sciences). The adult-child ratio in day care centres is one to seven for 3-6-year-olds and one to four for children under the age of three in full-time day care. When arranging part-time day care the ratio for 3-6-year-olds is one to thirteen and for children under three the ratio is the same as in full-time care.
Family care minders must have appropriate training. The adult-child ratio in family day care is one to four, including the child minder's own children. In addition, part-time care may be provided for one pre-school or school-aged child.
ECEC is realised in co-operation between various actors forming a wide network that provides services for children and families. These actors include social welfare, health care and education authorities, various organisations and communities that work in favour of children and families and parishes with their ECEC services.