In December 2016, Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja requested the Finnish National Agency for Education to provide information on how different municipalities organise basic instruction in the arts in early childhood education and care. The investigation was triggered by a complaint criticising fee-paying music school activities organised in the City of Espoo.
Municipalities have different practices
The Finnish National Agency for Education investigated the practices of organising external fee-paying activities in early childhood education and care in five municipalities (Helsinki, Kouvola, Lappeenranta, Oulu and Turku). Out of the municipalities, Lappeenranta and Oulu had organised fee-paying activities. An experiment with a music institute had been completed in Lappeenranta, while many day-care centres in Oulu provide children with an opportunity to participate in fee-paying club activities during early childhood education and care. No external fee-paying activities are organised in Helsinki, Kouvola and Turku.
Fee-paying activities are also organised in other municipalities. Based on the observations made by the Parliamentary Ombudsman, there are differences in organising fee-paying activities both between municipalities and the different operating units within the same municipality.
Art education is an essential part of early childhood education and care
The Deputy-Ombudsman stated that from the point of view of achieving equality in education, equality of children and the objectives of early childhood education and care, the least problematic way forward is cooperation between the providers of early childhood education and care and the providers of basic education in arts. Art education should be integrated in the early childhood and care which is provided for all children.
How can other pursuits be organised?
In case other fee-paying pursuits are organised in connection with early childhood education and care, the Deputy-Ombudsman finds that it must be ensured that these other activities will not endanger or hinder meeting the objectives of early childhood education and care. The activities may also not violate the right to early childhood education and care of the children not participating in other activities. For instance, this must be taken into account in the use of the day-care centre facilities.
The Deputy-Ombudsman considered it important that everyone concerned is aware of the content, nature and issues of responsibility of the other pursuits organised at a day-care centre. It is justified that the other activities are clearly separated into an individual entity. When organising fee-paying activities in connection with early childhood education and care, it must also be ensured in different ways that the child can participate in the activities without being prevented to do so by the participation fee.
Further information is available from Senior Legal Advisor Piatta Skottman-Kivelä, tel. +358 (0) 9 432 3347.
The full text of Deputy-Ombudsman Jussi Pajuoja's decision EOAK/5754/2016 was published in Finnish on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at oikeusasiamies.fi.