“Childcare services for children under three years of age are not as good as we thought in advance,” Ellen Os, associate professor at Oslo and Akershus University College, told Norway's VG newspaper.
Using international quality assessment tools, Os and her team examined 206 kindergartens across Norway, and compared them with international benchmarks.
According to the study, Norwegian kindergartens rank only the middle of the range internationally, with staff failing in particular to speak sufficiently to small children.
“Conversation is mostly about what is necessary,” she said. “Children in this age group speak little, and there is a risk that they become a little too silent.”
Os said that although very young children were unable to say very much, they needed exposure to language in order to develop.
“It's all about learning, and also about creating a contact,” she said. “Talking together contributes to social development. It is also important for children's ability to communicate with each other, be in a community, and listen to each other.”
The researcher also said that too many kindergartens in Norway either had a lack of toys, or kept toys out of children's reach.
“What we can say is that there is a recurring theme in what has happened to equipment in kindergartens,” she said. “It seems as if kindergartens are less concerned with having equipment.”
She said toys were important as they inspire children to play.
Finally, she said a mere seven percent of kindergartens in Norway met all the hygiene requirements, with some failing in basic measures such as handwashing.
The findings will be presented at the conference "Good enough? Perspectives on quality for children under three years old in Norwegian kindergartens", which takes place in Oslo on 26 and 27 October.
Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Norway's Minister of Education and Research, said that the report showed that reforms were needed in Norwegian daycare.
“There is very, very much that's good in Norwegian kindergartens, but the report clearly shows that we still have some way to go,” he said.
“It is reassuring that children receive good care, but a nursery school should be more than that. Therefore, we must shift the focus from quantity and the number of spaces to quality in kindergartens.”