A bill introduced by the opposition Free Party ensuring free kindergarten spots for all children in Estonia passed its first reading in the Riigikogu this week with the votes of the Free Party, the Reform Party, the Social Democratic Party (SDE) and the Centre Party.
The Free Party's MPs managed to convince members of the ruling coalition to change their mind during the reading of the bill this week, the party said in a press release.
"As we have a situation in this country where Estonian-language higher education is free of charge, the justified question arises why, in the most important stage of education — preschool education — where in fact the foundation is laid for one's entire path in life, does the financial cost have to be so high," said Krista Aru, deputy chairwoman of the Free Party parliamentary group. "Why does the parent have to consider whether they can send their child to kindergarten — whether they can afford it?"
Aru pointed out that economic inequality in Estonia is very high.
"Enabling all children to take part in our kindergarten education, which is of very high quality already, is something that we all can decide now," she continued. "Why does the charge for attending kindergarten have to impact parents financially? This is just not fair, or necessary, when it comes to our future."
Although the government and the Centre-led Cultural Affairs Committee of the Riigikogu had not backed the Free Party bill, committee chairman Aadu Must (Centre) changed his mind at the last moment and called on members of his party to vote in favour of the bill, the Free Party said.
The motion to send the bill to its second reading passed with 50 votes in the 101-seat Riigikogu.
Editor: Aili Vahtla