The conception of preschool education is based on the same principles as other fields and levels of education and is governed by the same objectives: its aim is for the child from early childhood to master the basics of key competencies and thus gain the prerequisites for its lifelong learning, allowing it to be more successful in knowledge society.
Preschool education is institutionally provided by nursery schools (including nursery schools with an adapted education programme) or is implemented in the preparatory forms of elementary schools. Nursery school is legislatively embodied within the educational system as a type of school. In the educational process as well as its organisation, it is therefore governed by similar rules like other schools.
Preschool education is organised for children of the age normally from three to six years. Children in the last year before beginning compulsory school attendance are given preference in the acceptance process. Preparatory forms of elementary school are established for socially disadvantaged children from five years of age.
Nursery school is organisationally divided into classes. It is possible to place children of the same or different age in a class and create classes that are homogenous or heterogeneous in terms of age. In the same way, it is possible to place children with special educational needs into a class of a common nursery school and create an integrated class.
Nursery school can also be attended by children whose parents receive a parental allowance, namely in the case of children up to three years of age at most five calendar days in a month, in the case of children from age three regularly but no more than four hours a day or five calendar days in a month.
The operation of a nursery school can be interrupted in July and August as decided by the director of the school after discussions with the founding entity. The information shall be posted in an accessible place at the school at least two months in advance. (Note: Pursuant to the Labour Code, teachers have a right to eight weeks of vacation.)
The largest founding entity of nursery schools is the municipality; a small number of nursery schools have been established by private founding entities and churches. Nursery schools are established with full-day operation (more than 6.5 hours a day, but at most 12 hours a day), half-day operation (at most 6.5 hours a day) and boarding operation (full-day and night care).
Preschool education can be provided for a fee with the exception of the final year of nursery school founded by the state, region, municipality or confederation of municipalities and of preparatory classes of elementary schools, where it is provided free of charge (where children are educated who have had their sixth birthday in the given school year and children who have been given permission to postpone compulsory school attendance). The amount of the fee is set by the director of the school, who also decides on its reduction or remission.
Classes of a nursery school fill to 24 children; the founding entity can allow an exception to this number but at most by 4 children. The lowest number of children is set at 13 in the case of a one-class nursery school which is the only one in a municipality. A nursery school with two and more classes which is the only one in the municipality has on average at least 16 children in a class. A one-class nursery school has at least 15 children in a class and two- and more-class nursery schools have on average at least 18 children in a class. The founding entity can allow an exception of up to 4 children even to this number (this only applies to a founding entity which is the state, region, municipality or confederation of municipalities).
In nursery schools, children are taught by teachers of nursery schools, who mainly have completed secondary education with a school-leaving examination specialised in preschool pedagogy (graduates of secondary pedagogical schools). They can also gain education at higher vocational schools or higher education institutions in a bachelor’s or master’s study programme. The education must always be specialised in preschool pedagogy. The weekly extent of direct pedagogical activity of a nursery-school teacher is set at 31 hours.
The task of institutional preschool education is to complement family upbringing and in close connection with it assist in providing the child with an environment having sufficient multifaceted and adequate stimuli for its active development and learning. Preschool education should meaningfully enrich the daily programme of a child during its preschool years and provide the child with professional care.
In March 2005, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports issued the Framework Education Programme for Preschool Education, which builds on the Framework Programme for Preschool Education published already in 2001. The Framework Education Programme for Preschool Education (FEP PE) specifies the main requirements, conditions and rules for the institutional education of children of preschool age. These rules relate to the pedagogical activities taking place in educational institutions included in the network of schools and educational facilities. They are binding for preschool education in nursery schools, in nursery schools with a programme adapted to the special needs of children and in preparatory forms of elementary schools.
Schools have been required to work according to the FEP PE since 1st September 2007. Nursery schools can have their programmes focused on aesthetic activities, movement activities, ecology etc.
Nursery schools can also utilise some of the alternative programmes, e.g. Montessori pedagogy, Waldorf pedagogy, Step by Step or join the network of Healthy Nursery Schools – A Curriculum of Nursery Schools Advocating Health.