Pre-school education in Sweden belongs to the public-care sector and is regulated under the Social Services Act of 1980. The aims and capacity of public child-care are decided on by Parliament, whereas the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs is responsible for the preparation of laws and proposals related to child-care nation-wide.
It is the Government's aim that public child-care should be available to all children whose parentswish to use this service. Since 1975, all children aged six and over, as well as handicapped children from the age of four, have been eligible for pre-school education for a minimum of one year. This is optional for the child, but mandatory for the municipal authorities.
Public child-care is jointly financed by the municipality and fees paid by the parents. Only pre-school for 6 year-olds is free of charge. All public child-care is co-educational.
In 1985, Parliament decided that public child-care was to be expanded so that, by 1991, all pre-school children over the age of 18 months could use this service without any temporal delays. In some municipalities,this objective has not yet been fulfilled. Where there are insufficient places, children in need of special support for their development, e.g. children who are physically or mentally handicapped, are given priority in the allocation of pre-school places. Parliament decided, in December 1993, on amendments to the Social Services Act whereby the municipalities shall be obliged to offer all children aged 1-12, whose parents are gainfully employed or studying, a place in public or private child-care, starting on 1st January 1995. About 50% of all children aged 0 to 6 years, and about 30% of all children aged 7 to 12 years, take part in public child care. Child care services take the following forms:
The aims and responsibilities of pre-school and after-school centres have been set out in pedagogic courses issued by the National Board of Health and Welfare. Together with the parents, one of the tasks of the pre-school is to integrate the child into society. Its activities, which should be planned in close co-operation with the parents, should be based largely on the children's background, their interests, previous experiences and special needs. Pre-school covers the following main areas: cultural activities such as language, drama, music and art, painting and pottery; nature studies and community life. These topics manifest themselves throughout the year. Pre-school does not convey school education per se, but it does provide preparatory training for school.
TeachersAll staff in public child-care institutions are civil servants and employed by the municipalities. Pre-schools are staffed by teachers and child-care attendants, while recreation instructors and child-care attendants work in after-school centres. Pre-school teachers also co-operate in various ways with teachers at the lower level of compulsory school
The director or supervisor of the pre-school is responsible for the regular planning of the centre's work. The staff works in teams where the particular knowledge and interests of each member of staff can be utilised. Parents are encouraged to participate in the activities whenever possible.
The training course for pre-school teachers and recreation instructors takes place at universities and university colleges. The study courses have been extended from 2½ to 3 years with effect from the academic year 1993/94. They lead to a University Diploma in Child and Youth Training. Child-care attendants are trained in special 2-3 year courses in upper secondary school; as of 1995 all these courses will be 3 years in duration. There are also special courses such as those for bilingual students, wanting to work primarily with immigrant children. Most family child-minders in family day-care have followed an introductory course of 90-100 hours or a lengthier training, such as the child attendant's course.
Responsibility for in-service training rests with the municipalities but is not compulsory; the availability and content of such training can vary enormously from one area to another. In some places, pre-school teachers and school teachers are trained together.
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