nursery school

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nursery school

nursery school, educational institution for children from two to four years of age. It is distinguishable from a day nursery in that it serves children of both working and nonworking parents, rarely receives public funds, and has as its primary objective to promote the social and educational adjustment of children, rather than to provide a daytime child-care service. The first nursery schools were opened in London in 1907. Pioneers in nursery school work in the United States were the State Univ. of Iowa; Teachers College, Columbia Univ.; Smith; and Vassar. Early American nursery schools were often sponsored by and affiliated with local universities. The Eliot Pearson School (opened in the 1920s as the Ruggles Street Nursery) is one of the oldest schools of its type and is still affiliated with Tufts Univ. Few public school systems include nursery education; the facilities offered are chiefly private, philanthropic, or cooperative.


See H. M. Christianson, The Nursery School: Adventure in Learning and Living (1961); K. H. Read, The Nursery School (5th ed. 1971).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nursery School


(kindergarten), an institution for the public education of preschool children that is found in most countries and is usually the first stage in the system of public education.

The first school for young children was organized in 1802 by R. Owen in New Lanark, Scotland. F. Froebel first applied the term “kindergarten” to a preschool institution in Germany in 1837. The first nursery schools in Russia were opened in the 1860’s, and by 1914, there were 150 such institutions, caring for 4,000 children.

The organization of nursery schools as mass institutions began in the first days of the Soviet state’s existence, and under Soviet power a very broad network of nursery schools has been organized. In order to satisfy the toiling people’s demands for the public education of their children, the goal of expanding the network of preschool institutions as much as possible was included in the Program of the CPSU. Local soviets of working people’s deputies, enterprises, departments, and kolkhozes have opened nursery schools. In addition to nursery schools, since 1959 creches (day nurseries) have been organized for children from two months to seven years old. The ministries of education and their local agencies direct the work of all preschool institutions. At the end of 1970 there were 83,100 nursery schools and creches, caring for 8,099,700 children.

The content of educational work in nursery schools is defined in the state Program of Education in the Nursery School. Instruction is conducted in the children’s native language. In the nursery schools the physical, mental, moral, aesthetic, and work education of children is carried out in accordance with their age-group characteristics. The children are put into groups of 20-25 according to age. The youngest group consists of four-year-olds, the middle group, of five-year-olds, the oldest group, of six-year-olds, and the school-preparatory group, of seven-year-olds. The children spend ten to 12 hours per day at the nursery school. There are boarding schools for children whose parents work rotating shifts or have jobs that require travel. Parents take their children home from such schools only on visiting days.

In the nursery schools, a child’s life is given structure, and there is an alternation of games, lessons, work within the child’s abilities, and rest. One of the most important tasks of the nursery school is to pay attention to the health and proper physical development of the children, which are promoted by an appropriate daily routine, planned diet, strengthening the child’s body, preventive measures, gymnastic exercises, and medical supervision. The nursery school’s routine allocates a great deal of time to various games, including instructional ones that develop speech and hearing, numerical skills, and color and shape recognition. Revolutionary holidays and memorable dates are marked by festive and lively musical-theatrical morning performances.

The children’s lessons acquaint them with the phenomena of nature and community life. They study drawing, modeling with clay, designing, and singing, and they master the rudiments of reading and writing and elementary mathematical concepts. The process of studying develops language and thought skills in the children. Gradually, their first learning habits are formed: the ability to listen and understand the teacher’s explanations, to follow directions, and to complete assignments. The children learn to observe and love nature and to respect people’s labor. The work of the nursery school prepares the children for school.

Specially trained teachers are assigned to the nursery schools. They develop close ties with the children’s families and educate parents in pedagogical methods. Visual aids (pictures, albums, filmstrips, and movies), methodological literature, and reference books are published for preschool workers. The journal Doshkol’noe vospitanie (Preschool Education) deals broadly with questions of bringing up children in nursery schools.

Preschool institutions in other socialist countries are also part of the public education system and are maintained at state expense. Most nursery schools in capitalist countries are supported by private individuals or by church and community organizations. In the USA there are preschool institutions founded by parents on a cooperative basis. The content of the educational program of these nursery schools depends on the pedagogical views of their organizers and directors.


Programma vospitaniia v detskom sadu. Moscow, 1970.
Doshkol’noe vospitanie: Bibliograficheskii spravochnik, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.
Spravochnik po doshkol’nomy vospitaniiu, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1967.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

nursery school

A school for children of about 3 to 5 years of age.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Architecture and Construction. Copyright © 2003 by McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

nursery school

a school for young children, usually from three to five years old
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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