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Education ministry drops plan for mandatory kindergarten

Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps proposed making kindergarten mandatory for children from a certain age last year. The plan has now been dropped, partly because of how much it would cost.

Reps introduced a plan for mandatory preschool education in 2018 that would have seen parents who want to leave their children at home obligated to register them as being homeschooled and appear in kindergarten from time to time so teachers could evaluate their progress.

The plan would also have rendered mandatory preschool education partially or completely free.

The 2020 state budget bill does not include funding for the switch to mandatory kindergarten, and consultant for the education ministry's communications department Ingar Dubolazov told ERR that mandatory preschool education is no longer planned.

"It is off the agenda," Dubolazov said. "Today, one of the reasons is definitely that it would be expensive. Very expensive as things stand."

Work on the Preschool Education Act is continuing with the addition of provisions for children between the ages of 4 and 7 who do not attend kindergarten and counseling for parents in the area kindergarten.

Chief specialist for the ministry's general education department Tiina Peterson said the law could enter into force in the fall of 2020.

"The working group has finished its work and made proposals for home counseling we will follow in the bill," she said.

Minister Mailis Reps said last summer that 94 percent of 3-7-year-old children attend kindergarten, meaning that 10 percent of children miss out on preschool education in an average year, most of whom are socially left behind. Such children often need remedial courses in school.

The Estonian Kindergarten Association welcomed the idea but found that expectations for preschool education should be laid down first.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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