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Early Childhood Education and Care

Efforts to create the inclusive knowledge society must start early, and the government prioritises to lift the quality in the kindergarten sector.All children shall experience a safe environment for play, development and learning in good quality kindergartens with enough staff with good expertise.

All kindergarten children must have a safe environment for development and learning in excellent kindergartens with enough staff with good expertise.

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.

Bilde av barn som leker
Credit: Sveinung Uddu Ystad

Legislation

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. In response to changing policy needs the Kindergarten Act has had a number of amendments, eg. aligning the purpose clause to the Education Act.

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 and regulations. The municipalities are obliged to offer a place in kindergarten for children under compulsory school age that reside in the municipality. Children have a statutory right to a place in kindergarten from one year of age.  Municipalities shall make decisions on applications for approval after assessing the suitability  in terms of purpose and content and they may set operating conditions regarding the number of children, their age and the opening hours. .  Municipalities are obliged to treat private  kindergarten owners equally with municipal kindergarten owners as regards public funding. Approximately 50 per cent of the kindergartens are privately owned.

Public grants and parent's fees shall benefit the children in the kindergarten.

Staffing

The Kindergarten Act states that head teachers and pedagogical leaders must be educated kindergarten teachers or have other tertiary level education that gives qualifications for working with children and pedagogical expertise. Kindergarten teacher education is a three years university/university college study with bachelor degree. Pedagogical leaders without kindergarten teacher education must have further education in teaching in kindergartens. According to regulations there must be one pedagogical leader per 7 children under the age of three and per 14 children over the age of three. Pedagogical leaders work in teams with assistants to provide for groups of children.  In addition to the regulation of children to teacher ratios, there is a regulation for the ratio of children to staff. According to regulations there shall be maximum 3 children per staff when the children are under three years of age and maximum 6 children per staff when the children are over three years of age.  Assistants can have a vocational training as child care and youth workers on upper secondary level.

Staff with special tasks related to work with children in need of special educational support or providing support to minority language children may come in addition to the core staff.

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 the kindergarten content shall be comprehensive, varied and adapted to each individual child and the group of children. In kindergarten the children shall be able to play and explore their creativity, sense of wonder and inquisitiveness.  Kindergartens must work goal-oriented with children’s development and learning, and stimulate children’s communicative, 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, food and health
  • Art, culture and creativity
  • Nature, environment and technology
  • Quantities, spaces and shapes
  • Ethics, religion and philosophy
  • Local community and society

The children shall develop knowledge and skill within all learning areas through exploration and creative activity. Kindergartens shall build on the children's enthusiasm and contributions so that the learning areas come to be seen as a meaningful and fun part of kindergarten life. 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 work in partnership and agreement with the home to meet the children's need for care and play. Kindergartens shall lay a sound foundation for the children’s well-being, development, life-long learning and active participation in a democratic society. The Act gives children and parents a legal right to participation. Children shall be enabled and encouraged to express their views on day-to-day life in kindergarten and to actively participate in planning and assessing the kindergarten activities. Parents participate in the kindergarten’s parents’ council and are represented in the coordinating committee consisting of staff, parents and owner. The coordinating committee establish an annual plan for the pedagogical activities. 

Kindergartens for Sami Children

The Sami people is Norway’s indigenous group. Most of the Sami live in Northern Norway, a great part also in Oslo. About 1000 Sami children have a place in a Sami 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. 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 Sami kindergartens shall promote the children's Sami language skills, strenghten their Sami identity and promote Sami values, culture and traditions.  Kindergartens shal enable the children to discover the diversity of their own culture and those of others. . Sami kindergarten children shall be supported in preserving and developing their knowledge and their culture irrespective of where in Norway they live. Kindergarten provision for Sami children living outside Sami districts shall be adapted to reflect the children's Sami background.  All children in kindergartens shall have the opportunity to learn about how the Sami are Norway's indigenous people and learn about Sami culture and about Norway's national minorities.

The Sami Assembly has special grants to establish informative material and information to and about Sami kindergartens.