An experiment on providing five-year-olds with free of charge early childhood education and care (ECEC) was launched by the government for the period 2018–2020. The purpose of the experiment was to increase the participation of five-year-olds and their siblings in ECEC and to promote their guardians’ employment. The experiment also aimed to develop the pedagogy and service counselling of ECEC. The long-term goals were strengthening equality in education as well as increasing the participation rate in ECEC, which is lower in Finland than in the other Nordic countries. The government decided to extend the experiment for a third face for 2020-2021. The Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) has carried out the evaluations of the achievements of the experiment’s objectives.
First phase of the experiment (2018-2019)
In total, there were 12,400 five-year-old children in the 19 municipalities participating in the experiment, amounting to 20 per cent of the age group born in 2013. The following municipalities participated in the experiment: Harjavalta, Forssa, Miehikkälä and Virolahti together, Turku, Somero, Leppävirta, Mäntyharju, Helsinki, Kempele, Iisalmi, Kotka, Salo, Oulu, Liperi, Sonkajärvi, Kitee, Kirkkonummi and Taivassalo.
The evaluation carried out by FINEEC had the aim of investigating the achievement of the goals set by the Ministry of Education and Culture for the free ECEC for five-year-olds. The purpose of the evaluation was to produce knowledge to support political decision-making and to help find answers to the question of whether providing ECEC free of charge will affect children’s participation in ECEC. The evaluation also aimed to produce knowledge for ECEC providers on organising a free experiment to support local development work.
The first report was published in 2019 and can be read here (in Finnish with an abstract in English):
The first phase of the evaluation of an experiment on free of charge early childhood education and care for five-year-olds. Participation in early childhood education and the organization of the experiment
Second phase of the experiment (2019-2020)
In the second phase, 26 municipalities will participate in the experiment. The participating municipalities will offer 20 hours of free of charge early childhood education and care to the families of five-year-old children. Central government compensation has been granted to cover 40% of the estimated reduction in the accrual of fee revenue. The second report will examine changes in participation in early childhood education and care among children aged five and younger, the costs arising from the experiment, and issues related to its organisation. The evaluation will draw on both quantitative and qualitative data.
The second report will be published in Fall 2020.
Third phase of the experiment (2020-2021)
In the third phase of the experiment, the changes in the participation rate of all age groups will continue to be examined. Additionally the evaluation will focus on the potential effects of the experiment such as the employment of the guardians of the five-year-olds and the childcare solutions of their younger siblings.
The third evaluation phase will provide cumulative monitoring data on the participation rate in early childhood education and the organization of the experiment, and the report will include the metasynthesis of all of the objectives set during the experiment.
Currently FINEEC is analyzing the data and the evaluation report will be completed next fall. Survey material from children´s guardians and 295 Finnish municipalities has been collected since the beginning of 2021. The response rate for the survey of municipalities was 96 per cent and we received more than 4 000 responses from the guardians.
Senior advisor Anna Siippainen, tel. +358 29 533 5566
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