Early childhood education across EU regions


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Early childhood education (ISCED level 0) is one of the first opportunities children have to develop learning, critical thinking and collaborative skills. Early childhood as well as primary education play a key role in potentially redressing life chances through tackling inequalities and raising proficiency in basic competences.

The term ‘early childhood education’ is used for programmes that meet a certain minimum quality criteria in terms of the intentional educational content. Intentional educational content at this age typically involves creative and play-based activities which are led by pedagogically trained staff and designed to develop children’s cognitive, language, physical and socio-emotional skills.

Today is Universal Children's Day and to mark the occasion this news item focuses on  early childhood education in the EU.


In 34 EU regions, all children participate in early childhood education

In 2018, 96% of children aged between 4 years old and the starting age of compulsory primary education were enrolled in early childhood education in the EU.

Across the EU, 6 out of 10 regions recorded a share above 95%, while in 34 regions - predominantly located in Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and France — all children aged between 4 years and the starting age of compulsory primary education participated in early childhood education.


Participation rates in early childhood education, 2018

Source dataset: educ_uoe_enra17


The lowest participation rates — with fewer than 7 out of 10 children participating in early childhood education — were recorded in Východné Slovensko (the easternmost region of Slovakia; 70%) and Attiki (the capital region of Greece; 67%).


Would you like to know more about education and training across EU regions?

You can find more information in the dedicated chapter of the new digital publication Regions in Europe, in the dedicated chapter of the Eurostat regional yearbook 2020 as well as in the corresponding maps in Statistical Atlas.



  • In this news item, the regional data are presented at NUTS 2 level with the exception of Germany and the United Kingdom (NUTS level 1).
  • The European Union (EU) includes 27 EU Member States. The United Kingdom left the European Union on 31 January 2020. Further information is published here.
  • Relevant updated information on UOE data collection and national quality reports can be found in the metadata file of the education administrative data.


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