The pre-school system is intended for children from the age of one until they start in pre-school class or compulsory school. The purpose of pre-school is to stimulate children's development and learning in a secure and caring environment. Pre-school takes a holistic view of children and their needs and is designed so that care, development and learning come together to form a whole. Pre-school is intended to promote a broad spectrum of contacts and social community, and to prepare children for continued education.
Pre-school today is an intrinsic part of the daily lives of families with children and a prerequisite for reconciling parenting and work.
In 2009 just over 86 per cent of all children aged one to five were enrolled in the pre-school system. This meant that more than 466 000 children were attending pre-school, which had around 94 000 members of staff.
Since autumn 1998, pre-school has had its own curriculum, laid down in an ordinance. The curriculum is set by the Swedish Riksdag and the Government. This emphasises the importance of pre-school as the first step in lifelong learning. Within the set frameworks, individual municipalities are free to decide how to conduct their pre-school services. The curriculum sets out fundamental values and tasks, national goals and guidelines for pre-school, etc. The educational principles of the pre-school curriculum are based on the assumption that care and education go hand in hand. A good caring environment is essential for development and learning, while care in itself provides educational content. The curriculum also emphasises the importance of play in the child's learning and development, and the child's own active participation. Pre-school is meant to be fun, secure and educational for all children.
The pre-school curriculum was revised in 2010 and now contains clearer objectives for children's development in language and mathematics, and in natural sciences and technology. The guidelines for staff responsibilities have been clarified, both at individual teacher level and at team level. New sections on monitoring, evaluation and development, and on the responsibilities of pre-school heads, have been added.
Besides the curriculum, a pre-school may have policy documents or working plans of its own, which may broaden, focus or specify its orientation or working methods provided there is no conflict with the curriculum. These documents may be seen as supplementing the national curriculum in individual pre-schools.