Evaluation of the experiment for free of charge early childhood education and care for five-year-olds 2018-2021

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 participated in the experiment. The participating municipalities offered 20 hours of free of charge early childhood education and care to the families of five-year-old children. Central government compensation had been granted to cover 40% of the estimated reduction in the accrual of fee revenue. The second report examined 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 drew on both quantitative and qualitative data.

The second report was published in Fall 2020 and can be read here (in Finnish with an abstract in English): 

An experiment on free of charge early childhood education and care for five-year-olds: The second phase of evaluation. Participation in early childhood education, its costs and organisation


Third phase of the experiment (2020-2021)

As the experiment has been extended, FINEEC will continue the evaluation until the end of 2021. The following municipalities are involved in the third phase of the experiment: Akaa, Espoo, Forssa, Halsua, Harjavalta, Helsinki, Hämeenkyrö, Kauhajoki, Kirkkonummi, Kitee, Kotka, Lahti, Laitila, Leppävirta, Liperi, Miehikkälä and Virolahti, Oulu, Rautavaara, Rusko, Salo, Somero, Sonkajärvi, Tammela, Toivakka and Turku.

In addition to the changes taking place in the rate of participation, the third stage focuses on the municipal service systems and the service guidance in ECEC. The evaluation data was collected from guardians of five-year-olds and municipal officeholders at the beginning of 2021. A total of 282 municipalities from Mainland Finland responded to the municipal survey and we received more than 4,000 responses to the survey for guardians.

The final report of the project produces information to support political decision-making on the basis of the evaluation data produced by the three phases of the experiment for free early childhood education and care. The final report will be published in autumn 2021.