Researchers say early education in Norway has left some kindergarten and nursery school students falling short of basic speech and hygiene requirements, the country's VG newspaper reported. Kindergarten and daycare staff are not speaking enough to small children to prompt proper language development, and just 7 percent of kindergarteners can meet basic hygiene expectations -- such as hand-washing -- according to a research project from Norway's Oslo and Akershus University College.

The researchers were set to present their findings to an Oslo conference on early childhood education Monday and Tuesday and have said more verbal communication and equipment is essential in bringing the young children up to speed.

“Conversation is mostly about what is necessary,” said associate professor Ellen Os. “Children in this age group speak little, and there is a risk that they become a little too silent.”

Os and her colleagues compared the country's kindergarteners to international standards and determined that Norway's students fall in the middle of the pack. While the "basic care" in kindergartens is good -- meaning staff act caring towards the children -- the researchers determined that better training for teaching staff is necessary, and the children need more access to toys in order to inspire them to play.

Norway has implemented some major changes in kindergartens' organization in recent years, from placing children in small, stable groups to larger and more flexible ones. But the findings show there is no better quality associated with the traditional groupings, and the weaknesses in early education must be addressed with more resources and awareness.

The study's results have already prompted a response from Norway's Minister of Education and Research, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, who has issued a call for reforms in 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."