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Preschool is the education before entering school , e.g. B. in kindergarten and in separate pre-school facilities that prepare school performance and especially reduce the disadvantages of children due to their social origin. Pre-school education is handled very differently in the German-speaking countries.


Original name in the Empire and mention in the Basic Law

In the German Empire (until 1918) the word “pre-school” referred to a type of school that extended from the first to the third grade. It could be attended instead of primary school, was a year shorter and prepared for high school . Their visit cost considerable fees, so that it was reserved for the wealthier classes of the population. This gave the children from these classes an advantage in further higher education (grammar school, university). In the Weimar Republic , the preschools were therefore abolished.

The sentence “Preschools remain abolished” can still be found in Article 7, Paragraph 6 of the Basic Law , which was adopted from the Weimar Imperial Constitution . The sentence refers to the private preschools, which should prepare for the attendance of the high school. They were replaced in 1920 by the free state primary school. According to today's language, preschools should prepare for primary school.


A typical pre-school - between kindergarten and elementary school - hardly exists today (with the exception of Hamburg, for example). School kindergartens or preschool classes are being dismantled where they still exist and assigned to the kindergarten area. Such preparation for school (concentrated on the last year before school enrollment) was criticized as starting late and too short-reaching. In the educational debate of the 1970s in the Federal Republic of Germany, the question of assigning five-year-old children was already on the agenda and a decision was made in favor of kindergarten at that time.

In the GDR this was always undisputed. Pre-school lessons were usually held one year before school enrollment in the same building as the future school. The lessons should help the children to orientate themselves towards the school lessons that are to be expected and to adapt to its rhythm. Lessons included language exercises, hand motor skills, mathematical ideas and creativity.

The deficits in early education criticized in the course of the PISA studies are not based on the lack of a preschool, but on the insufficiently systematic and insufficiently recent scientific findings following early education in the various forms of child day care .


In kindergartens that children attend from the age of three, unlike schools, there is no generally binding curriculum . Article 7 of the Basic Law grants the school an independent educational mandate (in relation to the parents' wishes), but not the daycare facilities. The responsibility for the content, including the setting of educational goals, rests with the institution's sponsor. Since 2004 there has been an intensified discussion about early education (also as a result of the PISA studies). In the meantime, almost all federal states have educational plans, which are mostly supposed to become binding through agreements with the providers.

Preschool-like education in elementary schools

Current facilities (as of 2014)

In the existing school kindergartens in some federal states or in the Baden-Württemberg elementary school support classes , children are admitted who do not yet have the required school-leaving qualification for compulsory schooling when they reach age . In the remedial classes, the children acquire not only social skills but also lack of linguistic, graphomotor and cognitive skills. The aim of these facilities is to enable school enrollment in a primary school at the beginning of the next school year . Compensating for deficient German language skills is also part of the remit of a primary school support class.

In 1970 the first preschool classes were set up in Hamburg. The existing preschool classes are elementary school facilities. In the 2013/14 school year, preschool classes were set up at 237 of 246 primary schools in Hamburg. School-age children who have been postponed from attending primary school are admitted to pre-school, as well as children who have found deficits in the language level assessment required by the Hamburg Schools Act . In the case of deferred children, there is a free choice whether they want to attend a preschool class at a primary school or whether the child will continue to be cared for in a daycare center. For children who have a pronounced need for language support during the introductory process, a visit to the preschool classes is mandatory before starting school.

In Bavaria , children whose parents are both of non-German-speaking origin and whose language proficiency test shows that they have insufficient knowledge of German receive a 240-hour special German course, the so-called preliminary course. The preliminary courses take place over a period of one and a half years. They are compulsory for school-age children of foreign origin who do not have sufficient knowledge of German and who are postponed from schooling. The preliminary courses are carried out in close cooperation with educational specialists from kindergartens and primary school teachers.

Previous facilities

In the school trial (in Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia ) in the 1970s, elementary school years were brought forward and extended by one year at some schools. At the request of the parents, the children were admitted to school one year before they were required to attend school. As part of the school experiment, the children should be introduced to everyday school life and learning in a playful way. Because of the early enrollment, the school trial was colloquially called pre-school.

In Berlin, as part of a school reform, the preschool was held for the last time in the 2004/2005 school year. At the same time, the children's school age has been brought forward by half a year. As a result, one and a half years started school in 2005. Upbringing that prepares students for school is to be implemented in kindergartens in the future. After that, the children should go into a " flexible entry phase ", which can last between one and three years. After the introductory phase, the children then move on to the 3rd grade. With this concept it should be achieved that the children in the 3rd grade have about the same level of performance.


In Austria, children who are not ready for school but who are required to attend school are admitted to preschool. This means that these children are taught in their own pre-school class, if there is one at the school, or they are listed as pre-school children within the first grade of elementary school and taught according to the pre-school curriculum. Likewise, there may be a deferral in pre-school during the first school year, but advancement to elementary school is also possible within the year ( flexible school entry phase ). The children are given special support in kindergarten so that attending preschool can be avoided if possible.

The pre-school time is considered part of the school time and counts towards the nine years of compulsory schooling, which means that attending a polytechnic school can be omitted.

Preschools in other countries


As the PISA study shows, Finland has one of the most successful education systems in the world. In comparison, the Finnish education system seems to be clearly superior to the German.

Even in the early years of Finland, children's education is seen as deserving of support and support, without school-based forms of education being transferred to the preschool sector. The children start school relatively late (7 years). Instead of an early enrollment, special emphasis is placed on the qualifications of the skilled workers in the pre-school area, on staffing levels, and on scientific accompaniment and support.

In Finland, the state is basically responsible for looking after the children. Children have the right to care and upbringing (regardless of form). In Finland day care centers are part of the education system - in contrast to Germany, where the kindergarten is supervised by the ministries of social affairs (not by the ministry of culture in a federal state).

In Finland, 55% of children under 7 are in daycare. The opening times are approx. 10 hours; but there are also day care centers that are open 24 hours a day. As a rule, a full-day or half-day admission of the child is offered. The groups are led by mixed ages in full-day or half-day groups. The day usually consists of the following focal points (N. Kuch, p. 5):

  • Get together in the morning
  • Fixed meal times
  • Rest at noon
  • Games outside
  • musical and language support
  • Education should be offered, but is not mandatory.

The group size for children under 3 years is 12 children, for three to seven year olds 20 children. The care key for four children under 3 years of age or for seven children over 3 years of age is one specialist (usually an educator trained at the university, see below).

A large proportion of the costs of the education system in Finland are invested in the pre-school system. The idea behind this is that early upbringing is an integral part of education. Important priorities in early education are:

  • Ethics and philosophy
  • health
  • Physical and motor development
  • Arts and Culture
  • mathematics
  • Language and interaction
  • Environment and natural history.

(See literature: N. Kuch)

The goals of pre-school education in Finland are (according to Natalija Kuch):

  • To consolidate the positive self-image of the children and to promote the ability to learn, whereby playful learning should be in the foreground.
  • The child should learn to understand himself as a member of the group.
  • They should know what is important for their health and well-being.
  • The linguistic identity should be developed: express yourself in a variety of ways, get to know different forms of art - also from other cultures.
  • They should be able to explore and analyze their environment; they should be able to enjoy beauty and diversity and recognize the consequences of their actions for the environment. (N. Kuch, p. 8)

The training of kindergarten teachers was brought to the universities in 1995 - but not without controversy in Finland. There is currently an entrance exam for this course because the demand is very high. Like teachers in Finland, kindergarten teachers are municipal employees. Usually these staff are unionized. But also in Finland kindergarten teachers (as in Germany) earn less than their colleagues in primary school. The social educator concentrates more on the family and “welfare”. This profession has only recently become significant in preschool education.

In 1994, nanny training was transferred to social care training . Social care workers should be able to be deployed as widely as possible in different areas and groups:

  • Care and maintenance
  • Development promotion
  • rehabilitation

Finally there is the playgroup leader, for example in training centers of the Lutheran Church.


The École Maternelle is the French pre-school. It teaches children from three to six years old, with children of one age group within a group.

United States

The United States has a wide variety of public and private preschool programs that reach more than half of all children under five and nearly all five-year-olds. The most important is kindergarten , which in the USA is not a childcare but an educational program in elementary schools. In kindergarten, the five-year-olds who are due to go to first grade a year later are literate and taught all day according to an age-appropriate elementary school curriculum. The private Day Care Centers and Nursery Schools , in which high-earning professionals place their children all day, as well as the private preschools , which are cheaper but only offer part-time programs, see themselves more as educational institutions than as a childcare service. In such institutions, people not only play, sing and do handicrafts, but also learn in elementary school propaedeutic. A small part of the four-year-olds are already learning to read, write and arithmetic here. Foreign language classes also take place occasionally. Migrant children who attend such all-day programs learn English through immersion and later usually speak it at a native speaker level. Many American preschool programs - especially the ambitious Day Care Centers and Nursery Schools - can now be accredited in a similar way to what was previously only the case at universities. In order to compensate for social injustices - attending good preschool programs is costly and is only available to the middle class - the state program Head Start was founded in 1965 , in which children from educationally disadvantaged social classes etc. a. receive free pre-school education.

See also


  • Natalija Kuch: Pre-school education in Finland - attempt to compare it with pre-school education in Germany . Thesis . GRIN Verlag, 2007, ISBN 978-3-640-48458-4 .
  • Norbert Kühne : Preschool Education - Change and Pedagogical Profession of Early Education. Raabe Verlag, Stuttgart 2017.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Gerhard Witzlack, Werner Klemke (Ill.): Soon I'll be a school child. A book to prepare children for school. Verlag Volk und Wissen Berlin 1973, OCLC 179220810 .
  2. ^ Pre-school classes in primary schools in Hamburg. In: Retrieved March 16, 2016 .
  3. ^ Pre-school classes, example August Hermann Francke Schools, Hamburg
  4. Query at HamburgService - school information system ( Memento of the original from October 20, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. Guideline for the education and training in preschool classes, Hamburg
  6. Regulations at pre-schools in Hamburg: Parents' right to vote ( memento of the original from October 24, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Preliminary course German 240, Bavaria ( Memento of the original from February 20, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. State Institute for Early Education: Kindergartens with Integrated Language Promotion - German Preliminary Courses ( Memento of the original from April 24, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. Why Should Schools Be Involved in Early Childhood? ( Memento of the original from March 21, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /