27/03/2012 - Finland gives its young children a better start in education than most OECD countries. Improving the skills of staff teaching the under-sixes and attracting more young people, especially men, to the profession would help ensure the long-term success of its early childhood education and care services, according to a new OECD report.
Quality Matters in Early Childhood Education and Care: Finland says that the country performs above the OECD average on most indicators. It is one of the few countries in which fertility rates have not declined since 1995, for example. Finnish students top the PISA survey of science and only Korean students perform better in maths and reading.
Public spending on child care and education as a percentage of the median working-age household income is above the OECD average, at 29.1%. And Finland has the best staff-child ratio of all OECD countries of one to four for the under-threes.
“Finetuning its impressive early childhood education and care programme would bring further economic and social benefits to Finland,” said Barbara Ischinger, OECD Director of Education. “Giving well educated and trained staff and leaders more opportunities to develop their skills would pay dividends.”
Among the issues where the report recommends action are areas where Finland performs below the OECD average. These include cutting the gender pay gap, increasing enrolment rates for children at ages three and five, and improving the health outcomes of students at age 15.
Boosting the skills of staff with caring responsibilities would help, says the OECD. More effort needs to be invested in improving leadership. Although staff are trained on management and planning during their initial education, a more rigorous programme to develop leadership skills and competences for qualified kindergarten teachers is needed.
Finland could learn from programmes in New Zealand and Sweden that have boosted the flow of young professionals into preschool education and improved staff qualifications, according to the report.
International research identifies five key areas that are most effective in encouraging quality in early childhood education and care: setting out quality goals and regulations; designing and implementing curriculum and standards; improving qualifications, training and working conditions; engaging families and communities; and advancing data collection, research and monitoring. Finland asked the OECD to focus on improving qualifications, training and working conditions.
The report is available to download.
Further information about OECD work on early childhood education and care is available at www.oecd.org/edu/earlychildhood. It includes the online version of the full report, research briefs, country strategies and international comparative data.