Taking a look at pre-primary education in Finland
Today I visited Kungsgards Daghem, a pre-school and kindergarten in both Finnish and Swiss languages. All children have the opportunity to receive pre-primary education free of charge during the year before their compulsory education begins. Childcare/pre-school is also available for all children, beginning at one year old, width the state covering up to 85% of the cost.
I was impressed by the manner in which the teachers at the school worked so hard to nurture the creativity of the children and then, after identifying their specific interests, structured the environment to facilitate cooperative work and determined effort. As the lead teacher said, "Our primary responsibility is to learn what the children can do and help them to grow as opposed to finding out what they can't do and remediating." Each child has an individual learning plan developed jointly by the teacher and the parents.
The teachers believe and, indeed, demonstrated that their best efforts serve to build confidence and sustain it as the child develops and grows. The level of independence displayed by the youngest of the students (2-3 years old) was apparent in everything they tried. Also, it appeared that all students were actively engaged in some sort of meaningful, relevant work, width adult supervision visible but unobtrusive, assisting when necessary but leaving much to the child to discover, intuit, figure out. The adult to student ratio is set statutorily at 1-7. The children do not leave the Kindergarten and move into Grade 1 until seven years of age.
When asked, "What are the expectations of the teachers in the primary school? What do they expect their incoming students to know," the most common response was variations on "to be curious, to think and act independently, to love learning, to be socially adaptable, to be able to listen to each other, etc." And, the primary vehicle for said preparation? Play.