The number of families from Ukraine who are fleeing the war is growing by the hour. Among them, a large group are young children. Soon they will be attending ECEC centres across Europe where the organisation of work may differ greatly from the one that is familiar to Ukrainian families. 

Knowledge of the context from which refugee families are coming can support ECEC professionals in preparing themselves to receive Ukrainian children and providing them with safe and welcoming conditions for the adaptation process.

Socio-demographic context

Ukraine is the second-largest country by area in Europe (Russia is the first one). In terms of population (approx. 44 million) it holds seventh position in Europe after Russia (approx. 146 million), Germany (approx. 84 million), UK (approx. 68 million), France (approx. 65 million), Italy (approx. 60 million) and Spain (approx. 47 million). The biggest cities of Ukraine are Kyiv (or: Kiev (the capital)), Kharkiv and Odessa. All three have been severely affected by the war in the recent weeks; many refugees are arriving from these cities. Ukraine borders with: Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and Russia. Until now most of the refugees have escaped from their country to/via Poland. The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian (украї́нська мо́ва); however, the majority of Ukrainians speak Russian as well (nearly 30% consider Russian their first language). The Ukrainian alphabet is the national version of the Cyrillic script. The predominant religion is Christianity.

Structure of the ECEC system

In Ukraine, children from two months old up to school entry at the age of six/seven are legally entitled to ECEC services (centre-based or home-based), free of charge, which are provided within different organisational arrangements. Services for the youngest children, up to the age of three (yasla), are rarely organised separately from kindergartens (dytyachyy sadok). In turn kindergartens are organised individually or in combination with lower primary schools (shkola-dytyachyy sadok). ECEC settings are typically open for 12 or more hours per day and may be run by state, municipal, and private providers. In the summer period, some settings offer services 24/7, organised within the framework of ‘summer camps’.

There is no obligatory ECEC curriculum framework; nevertheless, there are  curriculum guidelines for shaping ECEC programs.

The concept of preschool education in Ukraine includes the following:

• supporting the comprehensive development of children on the basis of national culture and spirituality;

• ensuring the physical and mental health of children, identifying those in need of health support at an early age;

• imparting knowledge on upbringing, environmental culture, moral orientation in national and universal values, respect for other persons;

• creating favourable conditions for the development of moral self-assessment and relationships with others;

• introducing folk culture, art, traditions, and rituals of the Ukrainian people, developing a respect for cultural heritage, customs, and traditions of other nations;

• mastering the mother tongue; providing cognitive and other types of children’s activities.

Seepro, Ukraine – Key Contextual Data 2017, page 8

ECEC professionals

Among the refugees there are numerous ECEC professionals who can be of great support for local communities in organising the adaptation processes for Ukrainian children and families. For example, in some municipalities in Poland, practically from the first days of the war, Ukrainian professionals were encouraged to take active roles as volunteers/assistants/teachers in shaping policy toward newcomers in the ECEC system.

SEEPRO professional profile categories

• Early Childhood Pedagogy Professional
(specialist focus, 0– 6/7 years)

• Pre-primary Education Professional
(exclusive pre-primary focus 3/4–6 years)

• Pre-primary and Primary Education Professional
(focus on pre-primary and primary education 3/4–10/11 years)

• Social and Childhood Pedagogy Professional
(broad focus, including ECEC, usually 0–12 years, but sometimes including adults)

• Social Care/Health Care Professional
(sometimes early childhood focus, sometimes broad focus, including adults)

Seepro, Ukraine – ECEC Workforce Profile 2017, page 5

Roman Arcishevskiy, professor at the National University of Volyn, notes that the main focus of early childhood education in Ukraine is on tolerance and living in harmony with the natural environment, with particular emphasis on sport, art, environment and health education. It seems that Ukrainians want the same things for their children as most European societies…


[1] Schreyer, I. & P. Oberhuemer. (2017). “Ukraine – Key Contextual Data”. In Workforce Profiles in Systems of Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe, edited by P. Oberhuemer and I. Schreyer.

[2] Sofiy, N. (2017). “Ukraine – ECEC Workforce Profile.” In Workforce Profiles in Systems of Early Childhood Education and Care in Europe, edited by P. Oberhuemer and I. Schreyer.

[3] Rating (2012).

[4] OMEP seminar report

This blog post was contributed by Olga Wysłowska (University of Warsaw).

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ECEC in Ukraine

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