Besides being a good pedagogical institution for children, the kindergartens also take care of children while their parents work or study. The kindergartens therefore also are a means to gain equality between the genders.
Kindergartens in Norway are for children aged 0 – 5 years. Children start
compulsory school the year they turn six. Parental leave is either 44 weeks with full
wages or 54 weeks with 80 per cent wages.
The first Kindergarten Act in Norway entered into force in 1975. Today’s Kindergarten Act (Act no. 64 of June 2005 relating to Kindergartens) entered into force January 2006.
The Kindergarten Act states that the municipalities are the local authorities for kindergartens. The municipality must provide guidance and ensure that kindergartens are operated in accordance with current rules. The municipalities are obliged to ensure that there are a sufficient number of kindergarten places. Private kindergartens have a legal right to approval if they are suitable in terms of purpose and content and fulfil the requirements in the Kindergarten Act. The Government will introduce a legal right to a place in kindergarten when full coverage is reached.
The municipalities must approve kindergartens and provide guidance to them. Approximately 50 per cent of the kindergartens are privately owned.
The Kindergarten Act states that head teachers and pedagogical leaders must be trained pre-school teachers or have other college education that gives qualifications for working with children and pedagogical expertise. Pre-school teacher education is a three years university college study with bachelor degree. Pedagogical leaders without pre-school teacher education must have further education in teaching in kindergartens. According to regulations there must be one pedagogical leader per 7 – 9 children under the age of three and per 14 – 18 children over the age of three. Approximately 30 per cent of these were trained pre-school teachers. Approximately 13 per cent of the head teachers and pedagogical leaders were not educated pre-school teachers and had dispensations from the educational requirement. There is a lack of staff in Norwegian kindergartens today in accordance with the educational requirement.
The Content of Kindergartens
The Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens is a regulation to the Kindergarten Act. The Framework Plan states that all kindergartens must work goal-oriented with children’s development and learning, and stimulate children’s linguistic and social competence. Childhood is a phase of life with intrinsic value, kindergartens must be inclusive fellowships with space for each child. The Framework Plan has seven learning areas that children should be acquainted with in kindergartens
• Communication, language and text
• Body, movement and health
• Art, culture and creativity
• Nature, environment and technology
• Ethics, religion and philosophy
• Local community and society
• Numbers, spaces and shapes
Each learning area covers a wide range of learning. It is a clear connection between the Framework Plan and the Curricula for Norwegian primary schools. The learning areas are to a great extent the same as children will meet again as subjects at school.
Children’s and parents’ participation
The Kindergarten Act states that kindergartens shall assist parents in the upbringing of their children. Kindergartens shall lay a sound foundation for the children’s development, life-long learning and active participation in a democratic society. The Act gives children and parents a legal right to participation. Parents can participate in the kindergarten’s parents’ council and coordinating committee consisting of staff parents and owner. The coordinating committee must establish an annual plan for the pedagogical activities.
The kindergartens are financed by the state, the municipalities and the parents. There are national regulations concerning parents’ fees, and maximum fee is NOK 2330 per month. The parents’ part of funding the total running costs varies between approximately 22 and 30 per cent. Maximum fees were introduced in 2004. The state gives grants for establishing and running of kindergartens. Public and private kindergartens must be treated equilly in relation to public grants.
Kindergartens for Sami Children
Norway’s indigenous group, the Sami people, are about 1.8 per cent of the population in Norway. Most of the Sami live in Northern Norway, a great part also in Oslo. About 1000 Sami children have a place in kindergarten.
The Kindergarten Act states that the kindergartens must take account of children’s social, ethnic and cultural background, including the language and culture of Sami children. Further kindergartens for children in Sami districts must be based on the Sami language and culture. In other municipalities steps must be taken to enable Sami children secure and develop their language and their culture. This legislation relates to the ILO’s Convention no 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples.
The Framework Plan for the Content and Tasks of Kindergartens states that kindergartens for Sami children in Sami districts must be an integrated part of Sami society and must demonstrate the diversity, vigour and variety of Sami society. Sami statutes must include the aim of strengthening children’s identity as Sami people through use of Sami language, and by teaching children about Sami culture, ways of life and society. At kindergartens catering for Sami children but outside Sami districts, parents and children are entitled to expect staff to be familiar with Sami culture, and to emphasise it as part of the kindergarten’s programme.
The Sami Assembly has special grants to establish informative material and information to and about Sami kindergartens.