Eine Erzieherin liest einer Gruppe von Kindern aus einem Buch vor24.07.2023

The importance of childcare ratios in kindergartens and their influence on early childhood education

Childcare ratios in kindergartens are of crucial importance for the quality of childcare and early childhood education. We will explain the definition, legal basis and influence of childcare ratios on children's education and present general recommendations for action and demands for the improvement of childcare ratios.

Caregiver ratio - definition and legal basis

What are childcare ratios?

Childcare ratios describe the relationship between the number of children cared for and the number of pedagogical staff in a day care centre. They indicate the maximum number of children that can be cared for by one teacher. A low childcare ratio means that fewer children are cared for per specialist, which usually allows for a higher quality of care and better support for the children.

Legal basis and regulations in Germany

In Germany, the legal basis and regulations for childcare ratios are laid down in the respective state laws and ordinances. As education policy in Germany is a matter for the federal states, the childcare ratios vary between the federal states. In recent years, however, there have been efforts to harmonise and improve the childcare ratios throughout Germany in order to increase the quality of early childhood education.

Some examples of childcare ratios in different federal states (as of 2021, changes are possible) are:

It is important to note that the childcare ratios in the federal states apply not only to state-run facilities but also to private daycare centres. Compliance with the care ratios is controlled and regulated by the competent supervisory authorities.

The care ratios may also depend on the age structure of the children in a group, the extent of care (e.g. full-day or half-day care) and special educational focuses or support needs of the children. In some Länder, smaller group sizes and better care ratios are also prescribed for children with special needs or for integrative groups.

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Importance of the childcare ratios for the quality of childcare

Individual support and needs orientation

An appropriate care ratio enables educational professionals to attend more intensively and specifically to the individual needs and interests of each child. Needs-based care is a central aspect in various pedagogical approaches, such as thesituational pedagogy or theOpen pedagogy of mindfulness.

Better relationship building between professionals and children

A good childcare ratio also supports the formation of trusting and stable relationships between professionals and children. Relationship-focused pedagogy, such as for exampleMarte Meo, emphasises the importance of a good bond between professional and child for the child's social and emotional development.

Promoting social interaction and group dynamics

Social interactions and group dynamics in general are not only better accompanied by an appropriate supervision ratio, but also effectively supported. This is particularly important in pedagogical approaches such as theTheme-centred interaction of importance, where the focus is on joint learning and group work.

Influence of childcare ratios on early childhood education

Cognitive development

Childcare ratios have a direct impact on children's cognitive development. Well-trained professionals who have sufficient time and resources can create targeted learning opportunities and environments that promote children's cognitive development. This allows children to better develop their cognitive potential, while age-appropriate learning opportunities and a stimulating environment support cognitive skills such as problem solving, logical thinking and concentration. This is the case, for example, in theMontessori education and theLearning workshop of central importance.

Emotional and social development

A good childcare ratio contributes to the emotional and social development of children, as professionals support children in coping with emotions and building social skills. They can also acquire social skills such as empathy, communication and conflict resolution skills. Individualised care helps professionals to respond to children's needs and assist them in overcoming social challenges. Pedagogical approaches such as thesystemic pedagogy and theReligious Education value the emotional and social development of children as fundamental aspects of their education.

Linguistic development

Children's language development also benefits from an appropriate childcare ratio. Professionals have the opportunity to support children in their language development in a targeted way by addressing their language skills and needs. They can offer individual support to improve the children's vocabulary, language comprehension and expressive skills. In addition, they can provide language stimulating activities such as storytelling, rhymes and songs to encourage language interest and the joy of speaking and listening. In theLanguage immersion orbilingual pedagogy this is particularly important, as the focus here is on learning two languages.

Promoting creativity and independence

An appropriate childcare ratio also contributes to the promotion of creativity and independence. If professionals have enough time and space to support individual projects and activities, children can develop their creative potential and work independently. Professionals can help children develop their own ideas and approaches by offering them open-ended questions and challenges. Good supervision enables children to discover their interests, develop curiosity and build a positive self-image. In this context, different pedagogical approaches also play an important role, such as the Montessori education which particularly promotes the children's independence and personal responsibility. Approaches such as theReggio Pedagogy and the Freinet pedagogy place particular emphasis on the development of the children's creative potential and independence.

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Childcare ratios in international comparison

Variation in care ratios worldwide

Childcare ratios vary worldwide, depending on the respective political, cultural and social framework conditions. In some countries, such as the Scandinavian countries, the childcare ratios are generally lower than in Germany, which indicates a high priority of early childhood education and care in these countries.

International guidelines and recommendations

International organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) andUNICEF make recommendations for appropriate childcare ratios to improve the quality of early childhood education and care. For example, the OECD for children under three years of age, a childcare ratio of 1:5 (one specialist cares for five children) and for children over three years of age, a childcare ratio of 1:10 (one specialist cares for ten children).

Best practices and learning effects

The international comparison of childcare ratios can help to identify best practices and learn from the experiences of other countries. Continuous reflection on one's own childcare ratios and international developments can help to continuously improve the quality of early childhood education and care and increase educational opportunities for all children.