Parents can support and encourage their children’s development and desire to learn by talking to them, playing games and teaching children simple skills. Parents need to be entirely present and devote their attention to children – that will help them to become mentally and physically healthy and strong members of the society.
Pre-school children and child care institutions
Parents who want to enrol their children in a pre-school child care institution should contact local authorities to get information about the admission requirements and documents required for enrolment. Municipalities have the obligation to guarantee a place in a pre-school child care institution of the child’s residence for all children aged between 1,5-7 years.
Parents can choose freely the pre-school child care institution, they want to send their child, provided there are places available. They can also choose the type of pre-school child care institution – private or municipal. Pre-school child care institutions must hold an education licence, which can be verified at the website of the Estonian Education Information System (EHIS).
Private pre-school child care institutions receive support from local governments in the amount determined by the municipality. Regarding the enrolment of children to the pre-school child care institutions, priority is given to children who live permanently in the same municipality, followed by children whose parents work within the catchment area. Children from other areas are accepted if there are places available. Application for enrolment should be submitted to the pre-school child care institution as early as possible.
Pre-school children and child care provisions
Parents of children under the age of 4 may choose child care provision instead of pre-school child care institution by submitting a relevant application to the local government. According to the law, the municipality has the right to ask an attendance fee of the child care institution from the parents, but not more than 20% of the national minimum wage rate established by the Government of the Republic. Parents are also required to cover the cost of meals according to the procedure established by the local government. Attendance fees and the amounts paid to cover the cost of meals may differ depending on the child’s age, the cost of managing the pre-school institution or other factors.
Acquiring pre-school education in pre-school child care institution
Pre-school child care institutions support the development of children’s general skills (personal, social, play and learning skills) and their overall development in seven areas of learning and teaching:
- me and the environment;
- language development;
- Estonian as a second language;
- physical development and movement.
As a rule, learning and teaching activities are carried out in Estonian, but local government council can also decide, that the activities are carried out in different languages. Children whose home language is other than Estonian start to learn Estonian as a second language from the age of three.
The organisation of learning and teaching is based on the national curriculum for pre-school child care institutions. Children who have completed the curriculum are issued a school readiness card which documents the child’s individual development. Parents will submit the card to the school where the child is set to begin his/her formal education.
National curriculum for pre-school child care institutions
The national curriculum for pre-school child care institutions follows the Scandinavian approach of combining different child-centred active learning methods such as “Step by Step”, the Montessori method, the Waldorf method of teaching, Reggio Emilia, language immersion as well as research, entrepreneurship and outdoor learning.
The goal of pre-school education is to support the children’s individuality, creativity and learning through play. Children whose home language is other than Estonian will receive state support to learn Estonian from the age of three onwards. In addition, methods of teaching foreign languages to Estonian-speaking children of pre-school age are developed.
Comparative international studies indicate that Estonian pre-school child care institutions have created good conditions for child-centred learning and teaching in co-operation with families. Estonian pre-school child care institutions place emphasis on teaching values, including supporting children’s well-being and safety, preventing bullying and developing tolerance, caring, honesty and courage in children.
Since 2010, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research is supporting a joint venture between the Danish branch of “Save the Children” and the Estonian Union for Child Welfare, entitled “Bully-Free Kindergarten”. The majority of Estonian pre-school child care institutions have joined the initiative. Estonian pre-school child care institutions also belong to a network dedicated to improving children’s health.
Speech therapists and special education teachers in pre-school child care institutions
Children attending pre-school child care institutions have guaranteed access to speech therapists and special education teachers. According to the 2012 data from the Estonian Education Information System (EHIS), such support systems are made available to nearly 14% of children attending pre-school child care institutions.
The 2012 data from the Estonian Education Information System also shows that around 11% of children attending pre-school child care institutions have special needs. Local governments and pre-school child care institutions also use the services provided by regional counselling centres (speech therapists, special education teachers, psychological and social-pedagogical counselling) that receive state support.
The attendance fees of pre-school child care institutions
In Estonia, parents pay an attendance fee to pre-school child care institutions, which may not exceed 20% of the minimum wage rate established by the Government. The exact amounts of attendance fees are established by local governments who can differentiate the fees based on the child’s age, the costs of management of the child care institution or other factors. Attendance fees vary between different areas of Estonia, ranging from 0 to 58 euros. Parents also pay for meals provided by child care institutions. The average amount paid is 26,10 euros. The fees may differ based on families’ economic status.
Types of pre-school child care institutions
These graphs show the types of pre-school child care institutions in Estonia, OECD and EU on the year 2012.