European Science Festival during the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU

The European Science Festival will take place from 9 to 11 November 2021 under the leadership of the Slovenian Science Foundation (SZF) on the occasion of World Science Day for Peace and Development (10 November), as an associated event of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The European Science Festival aims to showcase Europe’s diversity in science, the excellence achieved in science communication, to promote the deepening of the European Research Area (ERA), and to promote European values in establishing and maintaining a lasting mutual dialogue between the European scientific community.

It is the umbrella event of the science festivals in Europe and is unique in that it brings together top scientists, academics, Nobel Laureates and talented students, as well as high-profile, award-winning journalists in the field of science and the understanding of science in everyday society. The event will be a one-stop-shop for European science, showcasing European science as a core European value.

Top scientists will present their work at the festival, thereby contributing to the promotion of research in Europe and beyond, while influencing the development of science policies to develop and effectively use science diplomacy to address global crises. The festival will take place on the occasion of World Science for Peace and Development Day and will focus scientific values on the cohesive politics of peace, ethics and a better future.

Andraž Ivšek,

Director of the European Science Festival

Global Talent Mentoring: A Hub for the World’s Most Talented Youth in STEMM and “One of the Best I’ve Experienced”

“One of the best I’ve experienced”—such is the praise for Global Talent Mentoring by Dr. Ruben Fair, magnet group leader of experimental nuclear physics at the respected Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in the United States. Dr. Fair is one of the many distinguished STEMM experts from around the world who is volunteering his time and expertise to mentor an exceptionally talented youth in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical sciences (STEMM) through Global Talent Mentoring.

Since the launch of Global Talent Mentoring’s pilot round in April of 2021, over 250 outstanding participants from more than 30 countries have been benefitting from the international online mentoring program. Outstandingly talented and highly motivated students (about age 16) in STEMM located around the globe were nominated by Global Talent Mentoring partner organizations, completed a comprehensive application, and were selected among a larger pool of applicants by Global Talent Mentoring to participate as mentees. Each mentee has been carefully matched with an expert sharing the same STEMM domain to form a mentoring pair, or dyad. The program is designed for mentees to participate for up to ten years, with students following individual learning pathways that guide them on their individual paths to STEMM excellence. To facilitate one-on-one mentoring, the online platform offers different communication channels such as emailing, instant messaging, and videoconferencing. The platform also serves as a members-only community space where all participants can interact with one another.

Global Talent Mentoring supports its participants through close, regular monitoring of the participants’ activity and experience with the help of trained program representatives who are ready to address participants’ needs in order to facilitate a positive mentoring experience. Additionally, research-based training materials covering topics such as aligning expectations and goal setting guide participants through the main stages of building a lasting and successful mentoring relationship.

In order to offer participants the best possible experience, four years of exhaustive preparation went into the program that included thorough research on which the program is based, the careful creation of a unique online platform, and close cooperation with its growing network of 48 partners and collaborators from six continents. Global Talent Mentoring is also completely free of charge, thanks to its owner, the UNESCO-recognized Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Distinguished Academic Performance (Dubai, UAE). The preparation of Global Talent Mentoring has been funded by a four-year research grant by the Hamdan Foundation and has taken place at the University of Regensburg (Germany). Global Talent Mentoring program director Prof. Dr. Heidrun Stoeger, Chair for School Research, Development, and Evaluation at the University of Regensburg, created the concept and, together with her team, built a global network of dedicated partners and custom designed an online platform that is now a meeting place for participants from around the world who are benefiting from this exclusive, evidence-based, long-term mentoring program. Global Talent Mentoring will start its second cycle of mentoring with new participants in the spring of 2022.

For more information about the program, partnering, and volunteering as a mentor, please visit www.globaltalentmentoring.org.

ETSN Youth Platform Summary

Zsuzsanna Szilágyi

What has the Youth Platform given me?

The establishment of the Youth Platform of the ETSN, goes back to the European Youth Summit organised in connection with the ECHA conference of 2016. This was the first time the youth from the ETSN Talent Centres met at a summit. Afterwards, Youth Summits were organised annually, the second one in Budapest, in 2017, in the frame of a talent support camp, the next one in 2018, in Dublin, on the sidelines of the ECHA conference and in 2019 in Dubrovnik, on that of the first thematic ECHA conference.

At these meetings, the participants can establish life-long friendships and international contacts, and their work in an international environment as well as opportunities to familiarise with other cultures and education systems is often an asset for their future career. In addition to meeting their peers, they also get acquainted with iconic figures of international talent support.

The young people active in the Youth Platform were hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic: they have had no opportunity to meet personally since the 2019 Summit. The 2020 Summit had to be cancelled due to the border crossing restrictions, and online discussions could not replace personal contacts for the Youth Platform participants, in particular since their time at the Platform is limited anyway by their age and life conditions.

Even in 2021, there will be no more than a single online Summit, that is  organised by the ETSN Centres together with the organising staff of the Porto ECHA conference. Programmes are being developed continuously until the beginning of the on-line Summit.

According to our plans, 47 students from 15 countries will take part at the international meeting in 2021. Lets listen to some students about their experience in the Youth Platform:

Summary of Csenge Földvári-Nagy

I am Csenge Földvári-Nagy, I am 23 years old, and I have just graduated in Social Policy and Sociology at the University of Birmingham.

The YP has given me a lot. First of all, I met my mentor, Vilmos Benkő, with whom I have been in contact ever since and who supports me on my journey, but the contact system I have established thanks to this programme is also most important. Contrary to the experience of my school years, during the YP events I have learned not to be afraid of others: I could get in touch with anyone more knowledgeable than I am, and request guidance and assistance. Just because someone is ahead of me, I do not have to fear that person, who is also a human being, just like me. As for the practical skills, such as presentation technique and mentoring, the programme gave me knowledge that I have been using daily ever since then.

My “career” has just started when I left the programme. I took on many tasks at university, such as helping other students with their learning tasks, representing my fellow-students to lecturers, organising events for the student circle of my programme as academic officer, evaluating teacher applications and promoting the integration of international students, to mention but a few. I have acquired the knowledge that made me capable of helping first-year students in their studies by answering their questions or guiding them to the answers at the YP.

What is my favourite recollection? Experience acquired at the European Youth Summit, including a visit to the 15th ECHA Conference.

Summary of Lilla Harangozó

I am Lilla Harangozó, a 21-year-old graduate of International Relations at Corvinus University of Budapest. After completing my bachelor’s degree, I will continue my studies in European and International Governance at Vrije Universitet Brussel.

I joined Youth Platform in the spring of 2017 as a delegate of my former school, Garay János Grammar School of Szekszárd. I have taken part in talent support since I was in lower grades, mainly in the fields of Hungarian and of foreign languages, and I continued my activity in secondary school. I have been an active member of the self-governments of my schools since Grade 5, and this has taught me to organise events of various sizes and to work in a community. All in all, I consider myself a very open, social and purposeful person who would do her best to achieve her goals.

The Youth Platform gave me a lot in the past 4 years. When I participated at the first meeting in Budapest, I was a complete stranger to everything and everyone, but we have soon found a common voice and I became the member of a small family. By the time of the 2018 Dublin Meeting, I was one of the five students who organised their own YP programmes. The last face-to-face meeting took place in Dubrovnik in 2019, and that was also a great experience for me.

During the few days of the meetings, we have always had opportunities for “entertainment” in addition to work: to tour Croke Park, then attend a reception, or just swim in the Adriatic in early October after a rich day. My fondest memory is also associated with Dubrovnik: on our last evening, we walked to the harbour of the old town and talked there for hours, looking at the sea and the wonderful city.

Through these meetings, I have learned a lot not only about myself, but also about others. Being a member of an international team helps you acquire the skills that will make it easy for you to adapt to others while also enforcing your own will. I have gained an insight into the opportunities available to the talented youth of other countries to unfold their abilities, something that we could also profit from.

Recently, I have placed most emphasis on my university studies as well as building my future. I spent half a year in Brussels on an Erasmus scholarship, and as intern in the European Parliament at the same time. In both places, I benefited from the qualities acquired through the Youth Platform, as I was not unfamiliar with the international environment at the university, and I was able to make full use of all my experience so far in my work.

Unfortunately, I haven’t met personally the people I’ve had these experiences with in a long time, but I’m sure if I needed anything, a message would be enough for someone to help me. I believe that once someone becomes a member of this team, it will have a place in it forever.

Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program

TMNP – Closing Gaps in Gifted Education

Vinayak Bhavan, 510 Sadashiv Peth, Pune – 411030, INDIA. www.tribalmensa.org | www.facebook.com/tribalmensa

The word ‘gifted’ is synonymous with enormous, naturally endowed talent or skill. However, for many underprivileged children, this giftedness is never identified or nurtured to reach its full potential. 

The Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program is a globally recognized, specialized program of Mensa India that identifies and mentors highly gifted underprivileged children in the remote rural areas of India. Since our inception in 2003, we have tested over 40,000 children and successfully nurtured nearly 4000 kids to become potential society leaders. Since 2017 TMNP is focusing on underprivileged gifted girls specifically as they are the nurturers of any family. 

This journey has not been a walk in the park. There are several challenges we face on an everyday basis while mentoring these children, especially girls. The reasons are many, ranging from rural mindsets to societal pressures. The traditional norms of generations are persisting that the role of girls to assist in their homes which holds more priority than education by itself. Secondly, education can be discontinued for various reasons by the parent if the girl child needs to be of assistance at home or to be married and beget children.

TMNP’s Approach: TMNP has always looked for solutions even in remote and harsh situations, creating activities and nurturing programs that have embraced challenges instead of fighting them to overcome hurdles. This would imply that TMNP has been able to take cognisance of the social norms of the rural area, the limitations of expanding nurturing beyond certain mindsets of girls in a conservative community. The kind of educational courses that girls should and can take may be gender specific and may not appeal to the intellect of the girl. Nevertheless, this leaves only few options open for them to pursue due to the disadvantaged background and community norms. TMNP has always worked around the geographical, social, and political fabric of that constituency. Farmer’s daughters can work towards being leaders in education, propagate health, awareness towards higher studies or sharing psychological strength towards other rural younger students.  The biggest challenge hampering the development of gifted underprivileged girls is the social mindset. Having never been exposed to global perspectives through education, rural communities are often reticent about sending girls to schools, let alone pursue higher studies or travel for jobs.

From the time we started, we decided to devise solutions that were non-academic and rooted in traditional Indian culture, such as our ancient Vedic knowledge. All our programs are based on ancient Indian philosophy and its precepts. This ocean of knowledge holds the key to developing strong, balanced, socially aware leaders who can transform society.

Challenges Faced by Gifted Underprivileged Girls in Rural Areas: Several challenges are created by the current educational, social, and economic systems that hold gifted underprivileged girls back from achieving their potential.

  1. Educational sector, evaluations based on performance in examinations instead of actual knowledge retentions,
  2. Social sector: Gender biases on the social front, preferences for boys than girls. Early marriage or dropouts.
  3. Economic sector: Financial instability due to agricultural hardships and priority towards housing, health and social customs like marriages and births which is more prominent financial liabilities than education.

Most of these children are first-generation learners, coming from low-income families who have relied on traditional professions for earning a livelihood. For many parents, investing time and effort in a long-term plan for their child when there is immediate work to be done at home seems like a waste of time, making it difficult for young girls to nurture their giftedness and pursue their dreams.

Conditioned by this mindset, the priorities of girls in rural areas are different as well. It is not that they are not ambitious; they just have never had the correct exposure to the abundant opportunities awaiting them in the world! Defying social norms is a challenge. Not all challenges are external, though; gifted underprivileged children have other internal sources of anxiety, fear of failure and achievement at any cost as money, time and learning is a constrain. These include low self-confidence, low self-esteem, peer pressure, personal insecurities, a high amount of self-criticism, negativity about self, and no goal setting. This results in poor physical appearance, disregard for self-care, and poor academic performance. 

Some cases at the other end of the spectrum result in students with extremely high expectations, different definitions of development, comparison to outside standards, and adoption of a Westernized lifestyle that creates a huge gap between their family professions and their perceived goals. Unrealistic academic goals that don’t match the socioeconomic position of the families, pilot, doctor, defence, nevertheless these goals are achievable financial and social fabric hinders this dream.

The lack of proper mentors and appropriate counselling keeps these gifted, brilliant young minds from realizing just how much they can contribute to society if only their talents were to be nurtured the right way!

TMNP addresses these root causes that erode the prosperity of rural civilizations and attempts to provide solutions that create self-motivated leaders of tomorrow. Instead of fighting every social barrier, we mould gifted students to adapt to the ecosystem and still create practical growth modules that will help the society they live in.

TMNP – Closing Gaps in Gifted Education: Rooted in the principles of Vedic Ecology, TMNP is an innovative endeavour to combine the principles of self-sustainability and empowerment of the youth at a grass-root level.

TMNP works to identify potential mentors and leaders from the underprivileged community at a young age and nurture them, focusing on making villages and tribes self-dependent rather than moving out to the cities for empowerment.

We make gifted tribal children aware of their high levels of intelligence and its potential uses, nurture that intelligence and foster a positive attitude towards societal problem-solving, which will lead to self-fulfilment and service/contribution to the country.

These are some of our unique giftedness nurturing programs, devised after careful thought and consideration, as well as the challenges they overcome.

1. TMNP VAMA Project: Conducted for gifted female students, TMNP Vama is the first and longest-running project for underprivileged gifted girls worldwide. We identify and nurture gifted girls in the age group of 12 to 15 years and provide complete financial support for their future educational endeavours. 

In addition, we also support and nurture their families to free them from the traditional responsibilities of the household.

Gender inequality and lack of resources force many girls to drop out of school, as they do not receive adequate financial support. VAMA helps gifted young girls to further their education without the worries of financial liability.

2. TMNP Sanskar-Chamu Project: Societal norms often restrict gifted married girls in rural areas from getting a job or travelling for work.

Sanskar-Chamu aims to empower these gifted underprivileged women who have to take up the responsibilities of a home and family after their education while maintaining propriety in society.

Designed to provide better financial stability and psychological and social well-being, Sanskar-Chamu is a project that furthers the noble work of teaching. The program helps young, gifted; married women set up study groups and playgroups to teach children about Indian morals and values along with academic inputs.

Being gifted individuals themselves, they are in a better position to identify the latent talents of other gifted children and create an ecosystem where they can thrive!

TMNP G-Class Project: One of the FIRST gifted exclusive class in a regular school was incorporated to nurture the brilliant, gifted children in the class. The G Class program for underprivileged gifted girls is the first of its kind at the national and international level. 

The Gifted Class (G-Class) comprises all the gifted girls identified in the school and sees the implementation of giftedness-nurturing activities, self-assessment, and self-development programs that inspire the young gifted girls to continue their education and pursue holistic brilliance.

TMNP Panchakosha-based Development and Nurturing: The Panchakosha based nurturing, and development model is TMNP’s first-of-its-kind giftedness nurturing module exclusively based on traditional Indian Vedic and Sanatana principles and philosophy. 

The Panchakosha Model is one of our most significant contributions to giftedness nurturing systems, with its indigenous, culturally embedded non-academic roots.

It is a holistic approach that establishes a relationship between the body, mind, nature, the soul, and the Supreme Being. All physical, mental, emotional, behavioural, and spiritual attributes are nurtured under the principles of the five Koshas, viz., Annamaya Kosha, Pranayama Kosha, Manomaya Kosha, Vidnyanamaya Kosha, and Anandamaya Kosha. 

It helps underprivileged gifted children realize their potential, enhance their confidence in their capabilities, and strengthen their emotional and social skills. 

TMNP-Learn and Earn: Another offshoot of the Panchakosha model, this activity empowers students to think of ideas with economic viability. The gifted students are encouraged to identify potential activities that can be monetized based on their assessment and identification of their strengths and dominant characteristics.

Tribal Mensa – Implementing Effective Modules for Giftedness Nurturing Tribal Mensa has developed these programs for giftedness assessment, identification, nurturing, and counselling after 15+ years of active work in the field. Rooted in traditional Indian principles, backed by scientific evidence and real-world data, they have been validated and proven repeatedly.

In the last 15 years, we have aimed to consistently contribute to nation-building through identifying, nurturing, and empowering every underprivileged gifted child in India so that no gifted child is ignored in our country.

Today, TMNP is working to establish a platform for underprivileged gifted children across India for developing & utilizing their full potential. With this dissemination of information, we hope to empower any educator in the world to understand and successfully implement these programs to develop gifted children in their society.

TMNP- Trigunatmak Jeevan Sankalp (Tripartite Life-Goal Setting): Gifted children have varied interests, diversity, and curiosity, making it difficult for them to focus on a single career in life and choose a life goal. 

TMNP conceptualized the Trigunatmak Jeevan Sankalpa, where information is gathered based on the giftedness characteristics, personality traits, and behavioural characteristics of the gifted student.

Based on a collective assessment of all these traits, the child can make an informed decision regarding his/her life goal.

TMNP- The Concept of ‘Daan’ (Donation): Indian philosophy advocates various types of donations as part of the final rituals of a deceased individual. TMNP proposes a radical take on the traditional concept of donations by encouraging people to think of this as an opportunity to help someone, not just an obligation.

For instance, instead of utilizing the money that would have been given for some rituals or death ceremony (that are currently not applicable) towards the departed soul can be spent towards someone who is living and can benefit. The person could contribute a bicycle to an underprivileged gifted child, enabling him/her to travel/commute faster. 

The intent is to promote awareness about the needs of these gifted underprivileged children so that affluent donors might think of empowering such students and hence contribute to educating and nurturing them.

TMNP- Trishakti Assessment: According to Ancient Vedic philosophy, three energies are required to perform any action or work. These are, Ichha Shakti or the power of desire, Jnana Shakti, or the power of knowledge and, Kriya Shakti power of action.

In Tri- shakti assessment, we find out why the gifted student unable to study well or perform academically. These are the questions we raise and discuss to facilitate efficient academic opportunities.

TMNP-Swadhyay (Self-study): Swadhyay or self-study is an activity where we give gifted students the tools, techniques, and training to study effectively on their own.

From lesson planning to self-assessment, we help them cultivate enthusiasm, energy, and motivation for self-study. These sessions also encompass pointers on overcoming challenges, understanding the scope of the subject, and developing a habit of studying by oneself, and maybe become lifelong learners which helps them become better students for life.

TMNP-Gatiman-Gatisheel (Accelerated Training Module): TMNP assesses gifted students for two types of performance – academic and non-academic. We have observed that while students may sometimes not perform well academically, they perform exceedingly well in activity-based exercises that demand creativity, diversity, and ingenuity.

Furthermore, to translate this non-academic performance into academic excellence, we devise creative ways of explaining academic concepts and use methodologies that can be different than just academic format like project based etc. It creates interest among students about the subject, leading them to understand essential concepts with ease.

TMNP-Ashtang Samupadeshan (Eight-fold Counseling): TMNP has developed an eight-fold counselling module that addresses every aspect of the gifted student’s nurturing. 

It includes giftedness assessments, pre-and post-nurturing counselling, self-awareness and self-identification, Panchakosha-based nurturing, mentoring based on Vedic and Puranic philosophies, coping strategies and mechanisms rooted in Indian tradition, and Sanatan teachings.

There is a great deal of emphasis on developing the proper thought process, habits, ideas, and guiding principles that hone the child’s overall personality at a very impressionable age.

TMNP-Bharati Program: TMNP’s Bharati Program is founded on the premise of empowering young girls to be active drivers of their future by planning life goals from a young age, after a due assessment of their skills. 

We provide the necessary financial help, mentoring, and networking opportunities required by the participants to achieve their goals. Based on the concept of the four D’s – Doer, Destination, Dedication, Device, the Bharati Program for nurturing underprivileged gifted girls is genuinely one of its kind in the world!

TMNP-Kapila Nari Program: There is a distinct lack of awareness about female hygiene and complex health issues in rural areas, leading to early deaths and a high mortality rate.

The Kapila Nari program intends to create awareness about diabetes and heart disease, in rural areas, especially with the help of gifted girl students from remote nursing colleges and medical schools. 

We conduct extensive workshops educating young women about these subjects and also provide international certifications of the workshops in which they have participated.

TMNP-Self-Identification: The Panchakosha model of assessing giftedness characteristics is based on holistic, non-academic testing principles, which identifies gifted children’s positive and negative characteristics. 

It assesses the physical, interactive, intellectual, psychological, emotional, creative, social, and spiritual traits of gifted children, which aids more personalized and nuanced counselling in the future. Put this in in point 4

TMNP-Assessment of Traditional Life Principles: This activity takes a leaf from Indian mythology, quite literally! Children are often told stories of gods and goddesses in Hindu mythology, encouraging them to accept these deities as ideal personas to be emulated.

Nevertheless, whom should gifted young girls look upto these ideals? Should their role models be from the modern era, or should they be the eternal ideals stemming from the Sanatana tradition? TMNP discusses these concepts and helps young gifted girls identify whom they should choose as role models.

TMNP has developed six giftedness workshop modules, of which four have been published. The 6th module is the workshop on the Assessment of Traditional Principles. This workshop encourages thinking about our Gods and Goddesses from various perspectives to analyze their traits and flaws and imbibe the divine qualities. This approach may be relatable as religious gods and goddess and their teaching are still relevant for this community.

TMNP-Study of Ethics and Morality: In a world that is gradually sinking into immorality, TMNP encourages gifted students to explore the thoughts and concepts of ethics and morality for themselves. Through stories, incidents, characters, poems, narrations, articles, and activities, we help students understand the true meaning of ethics and morality, eschewing the bookish definition. 

Dr. Narayan Desai,

Founder, Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program

Email: narayan@tribalmensa.org

Talent Management Practices for Children in Extreme Poverty and Risk

Summary of the “Talent Management Practices for Children in Extreme Poverty and  Risk” symposium of ECHA’s 2021 Thematic Conference on Closing the Achievement Gap in Gifted Education

János Gordon Győri

In the past decades, responsible and fair talent support striving to promote equality and justice gave special emphasis on the involvement and appropriate development of children labelled “disadvantaged” or “multiply disadvantaged” in the Hungarian terminology. A relatively large number papers, methodological recommendations and conference presentations has been dedicated to talent support and development for this group and, luckily, there are also many relevant best practices.

One group of gifted children, in an even more serious situation, however, remains practically unaddressed in the context of talent support: children living in extreme poverty and also vulnerability threatening their life and healthy development. The hungry, the sexually exploited or enslaved children, those who live in the streets, trying to survive on their own, and those directly threatened by the wars. Often, their vulnerability is not attributable to one or another of the specific risks or hindering factors, but to their complex and prolonged presence.

At the roundtable discussion that was part of ECHA’s 2021 Thematic Conference on Closing the Achievement Gap in Gifted Education, three internationally renowned professionals presented one talent education programme each targeting children living in extreme poverty and vulnerability, with Prof. Dr. János Győri acting as moderator. The participants of the symposium “Talent Management Practices for Children in Extreme Poverty and Risk” were Prof. Sheyla Blumen from Peru, Dr. Narayan Desai from India, and Ndondo Mulli Mutua from Kenya, who presented programmes driven by rather different philosophies each.

Professor Dr. Sheyla Blumen, University Professor at the Department of Psychology of Pontificia Universidad Católica Del Perú, highlighted the necessity of providing talent support to young people living under extreme conditions; in Peru, 20 percent of the population lives in poverty and 2-3% in extreme poverty. The COAR (Colegios de Alto Rendimiento; Residential Academies for High Achievers) centres present in 25 regions of the country have been active in talent support to the scientifically gifted in the social groups living in poverty and making up 20 % of the population since 2010. The programme which rejects the “one size (i.e. one type of training) fits all” approach builds heavily on the original culture of students coming from deprived environments and selected by a special complex talent identification method. They teach children self-advocacy skills and, at the same time, cultural sensitivity, inter-cultural cooperation, the ability to adapt to cultural diversity and commitment to social justice and equity, while enhancing their cultural competencies. This is all the more necessary since they generally come from cultural minority communities subject to disadvantages and prejudices on behalf of majority society. Concurrently, the programmes concerned develop also the research skills of the gifted, partly to make these underprivileged children able to pass the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBD) examination. Further special components of the programme are discussed in more detail in Blumen’s publication of 2021, (Blumen, 2021).

Dr. Narayan Desai presented the Indian Tribal MENSA Nurturing Programme that he had founded and of which he has been a decisive professional leader to this day. Dr Narayan conducted the first MENSA test (internationally applied IQ test to identify those in the highest IQ brackets) in his Tribal School in 2002 and, to his great surprise, identified foul girls students who excelled at the MENSA IQ test. Talent identification among Indian children in extreme poverty and vulnerability has been using similar non-figurative IQ tests to this day. The test is conducted with children aged 11-12, and those in the highest, 95%+, brackets can be admitted to the talent programme. Since intellectually gifted students from deprived environments usually encounter difficulties in demonstrating high performance, due to e.g. social, not intellectual hindrances, efforts are being made to enhance their personality, motivation, via pull-out programmes with different foci by age group. Children are also provided career guidance in the same context. The driving principle of the programme is to support the skills/abilities, not the lexical knowledge of the gifted child. For further details, see the programme website athttps://www.tribalmensa.org/.

Ndondo Mulli presented Mully Children’s Family programme founded in 1989 at the symposium. The foundation of the programme is associated with the name of Dr Ev. Charles Mutua Mulli from Kenya, who, from a wretched young child lift by his parents to the care of an aunt, became a prosperous businessmen , a practising Christian following the teachings of the gospel, a philanthropic public figure. Mully Children’s Family is a development centre targeting the most wretched, most exposed gifted children who meet a very high criteria set. The approximately 4 000 children currently selected there come from street children, orphans, abandoned, physically and sexually abused children, forced into child labour, physically disabled, HIV- / AIDS-infected, deprived children and child mothers. The purpose of the programme is expressed by the 3Rs: rescue, rehabilitation, reintegration. Children are provided quality education, training in technical and vocational and even agricultural fields, musical talent development and development opportunities in sports, up to the highest professional levels. The programme, however, goes beyond providing assistance to, and ensuring the social integration of gifted children: it covers also support and development for the communities from which they come. The children themselves are socialised to return, if possible, to their own community and put to use what they received at Mully Family there, by advancing their own community through their presence, socialisation efforts and support. (For more details on the programme see its website at https://www.mullychildrensfamily.org/.)

Although the programmes presented at the symposium have their critiques (Gordon Győri, 2021), this was the first time in the history of the ECHA when a symposium was dedicated to their efforts, work and absolutely commendable achievements, focusing specifically on the most deprived and exposed child groups of society, and on gifted children in an even harder situation than their disadvantaged or multiply disadvantaged peers. The programmes fulfil a mission both literally and in the abstract sense in the world of talent support, an environment that can often offer opportunities to the gifted in more privileged groups of society than to the children admitted to these development programmes.

References:

Blumen S. (2021). Innovative Practices to Support High-Achieving Deprived Young Scholars in an Ethnic-Linguistic Diverse Latin American Country. In: Smith S.R. (Eds.), Handbook of Giftedness and Talent Development in the Asia-Pacific (pp. 223-238). Springer International Handbooks of Education. Singapore: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-13-3041-4_10

Gordon Győri J. (2021). Globális tendenciák a tehetségnevelésben: tehetséggondozó programok (Global trends in talent education: talent support programmes). Magyar Pszichológiai Szemle, 76(1). DOI: 10.1556/0016.2021.00015 (to be published)

 

Thematic ECHA Conference: ‘Closing the Achievement Gap in Gifted Education’

Thematic ECHA Conference: ‘Closing the Achievement Gap in Gifted Education’

Szilvia Fodor  –  Csilla Fuszek

Budapest 23-28 March 2021

The idea of organising so-called bi-annual thematic conferences focusing on narrower topics and addressing a smaller audience re-emerged during the ECHA presidency of Professor Péter Csermely. The first tender was announced to that effect in 2016, and the first thematic conference, dedicated to creativity, was organised in 2019, in Dubrovnik. The second thematic ECHA conference took place online on 23-28 March. Its co-organisers, MATEHETSZ – in particular the European Talent Centre- Budapest  – and Debrecen University spent months preparing for the event that has brought considerable international success.

The topic of the conference was the so-called school achievements gap. This was no accident: in Hungary, talent support provided to (multiply) disadvantaged children and the research of the relevant programmes from several aspects (psychology, sociology, education) looks back on a past of almost 22 years.  The organisers believed the topic was of relevance both in Europe and globally, but they did not count on it becoming more topical than ever due to lockdowns/restrictions introduced to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

It had become clear by the autumn of 2020 that there was no point in sticking to the original tender plans: the content and structure of the conference had to be redesigned, since we had to think in terms of an online event organised in the online space, and find the most optimal solutions under the new circumstances. The following is an overview of the relevant details.

Structure of the Budapest conference

The international experience has made it obvious that the conference was to be as diversified and lively as possible, as it is not easy to sit and watch the screen for hours. The conference that was to last for 1.5 days was therefore extended to 5 days, with no more than a daily 3 hours of “new materials”. At lecture time, roundtable discussions started at 4 p.m. and lasted for a maximum of 3 hours, and they were repeated the next day in the morning to eliminate problems due to time differences. Three hours a day caused no difficulty to the participants, but feedback has shown that most could only join the conference on no more than 2-3 of the 5 days.

Presenters

It is equally important that lecturers speak the language of the online conference, English in this case, well and understandably, and relay their enthusiasm for the topic through the screen. Many of the invited “plenary” presenters were world-famous researchers who have studied this field for years and are excellent presenters. Their name was a guarantee for having quality presentations.

On Day 1 of the Conference, after the opening, we welcomed Prof Márta Fülöp, an outstanding representative of Hungarian psychology, who discussed competition/rivalry, her special research topic for quite some time, from the point of view of the underprivileged gifted students. Her presentation shed light on the paradoxical situation that is a permanent experience of these children, i.e. the combination of outstanding performance relative to their environment on the one hand, and backlogs in many fields and frequent inability to perform well in competitive situations on the other. What makes the picture even more complex is that sometimes the student’s environment, the educators or the parents, respond to good performance with excessive enthusiasm and/or expectations, whereas in other cases they pull the child back or question the authenticity or legitimacy of the performance concerned. How can one appropriately cope with this situation in a competitive learning environment? The presenter answered the question by quoting some specific cases and highlighted the importance of motivation, coping and resilience that are probably crucial areas for dealing with underprivileged gifted students. After the presentation, Professor Fülöp logged in to answer questions. This topic provoked so many thoughts that she could not answer all the questions, so a special appointment was made with her: she logged in again on Day 4 of the Conference to provide exhaustive answers to all the questions.

On Day 2 of the Conference, participants could listen to two excellent lecturers. First to Prof Paula Olszewksi-Kubilius, teacher and researcher at Northwestern University, whose presentation focused specifically on best practices to support talents in a disadvantageous situation. The central concept of the researches concerned was the ‘opportunity to learn’, explaining the backlogs observable in the performance of underprivileged students. As pointed out by the presenter, it is crucial in this respect how we view the concept of “talent”; to what extent we consider it an innate, unchangeable or developable feature, and what identification practice we pursue on that basis. In connection with identification, she addressed certain practical issues such as assessment by the teacher, multiple criteria and local norms. She presented the impact analyse of Project Excite, Project OCCAMS and Young Scholars, and highlighted that their curricula give special emphasis to the psycho-social and affective skills, the development of appropriate habits, the meta-cognitive aspects, practical topics useful and relevant also in everyday life, the multicultural approach and close cooperation with the families.

The other lecturer of the Wednesday session, Prof Jonathan Plucker (Johns Hopkins University), drew attention to the excellence gap in addition to the achievement gap, and also the opportunity gap underlying them. First he presented the research report “Mind the (Other) Gap” published in 2010, the first document to call attention to the substantial achievement gaps existing between student groups. This research inspired many further studies, and Prof Plucker relied on their outcomes to re-interpret the original results from a perspective of 10+ years. Similarly to the previous presenters, he underlined the importance of appropriate talent identification practices, the necessity of having local norms, of teacher training and psycho-social skills. It was an interesting feature of the event that, instead of a Q&A session with the audience, Dr Szilvia Fodor (Debrecen University) talked with the presenter after the 30 minute presentation, and they discussed related interesting topics such as the extension of the notion of talent, specific talent identification methods and pedagogical and education policy tasks feasible in practice for an hour.

The Thursday (25 March) plenary presentation was held by Prof Frank Worrel (University of California, Berkeley), who was present in the capacity of university teacher and researcher and also as President of APA (American Psychological Association) and whose participation raised the prestige of the whole event. He reviewed the efforts to further diversity the talent support programmes, underlining the under-representation of underprivileged students. He pointed out, on the basis of the research results, that fair testing methods and assessment methods designed to offset distortions by the teachers are not sufficient in themselves to reduce this under-representation: comprehensive education policy actions are required to do so.

The last plenary session was that of Prof Péter Tibor Nagy who discussed the sociological aspects of entering the groups of the social elite. The presentation focused on the social aspects of talent support to assess the chances of underprivileged students to be admitted to the stages of elite education and employment. Given the complexity of this topic, it was not easy to see the correlations, but the domestic and international examples and statistics quoted by the lecturer gave a good illustration of the discernible trends and helped understand the social developments underlying talent support.

All in all, our experience was that although all lectures adhered to the basic topic of the Conference, i.e. Closing the Achievement Gap in Gifted Education, each presented a special perspective enriching relevant knowledge and, consequently, by the end of the Conference, the audience obtained a comprehensive picture of the psychological, pedagogical and sociological aspects of the core topic. The interactive sessions following the lectures where the audience could address direct questions to the presenters were particularly useful.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not all 36 lecturers could take part at the studio recordings of the conference; Hungarian colleagues made up 30 percent of the whole group. Other lecturers and presentations came from the US, South America, the Far East, Kenya and Ethiopia and two persons came from India and from Israel, but the European continent was also represented by several countries in addition to Hungary, such as Greece, for example.

The combination of the presenters and the topic itself and the fact that conference participation could be offered free of charge thanks to the support of the Hungarian National Talent Programme resulted in what was an unprecedented number of registrations in the history of ECHA conferences: almost 700 registered. Another conclusion drawn from the relevant international experience is that a conference is successful if 50 percent of registered applicants actually log in.  Data protection law does not allow to have exact data on the number of participants, but according to the estimates it was certainly up to around 50 percent.

Streaming

Streaming was assigned to the competence of the Europe 2000 Talent Point in the first place, and the capacities of the school studio proved to be perfectly suitable to ensure continuous streaming at the conference. One risk factor of online conferences is the quality of connections from various sites (and platforms). The thematic conference strove to minimise live connections (there were 6 such instances in all), although these were no doubt the most fascinating moments of the conference. The organisers did their best to record at least half of the 14 hours of the conference in a studio to ensure visual mobility and save the excitement of having a quality meeting/discussion between presenters logging in from say three continents at the same time. Studio recording has also helped recall the atmosphere of live conferences.

Although we could not be physically together, this opportunity ensured connection and involvement.  We hope that we’ll be able to talk and think about these important issues in person at the next thematic ECHA conference.

You can download the book of abstracts here: https://echa2021budapest.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/ECHA_Abstract_book_2021.pdf

You can look at the lectures here:

 

 

What does the ETSN Qualification Committee do?

The Qualification Committee (QC) had been established with the framework of the ECHA at the ECHA Ljubljana Conference in Autumn 2014. Its main task was to consider how to convert the principles of the European Talent Support Network recorded in documents into calls for applications and how to evaluate the applications and repeat the call-and-assessment procedure from time to time. The first applications were evaluated in 2015, and the Committee has announced 5 calls for applications since then, and it had qualified 26 Talent Centres for work in the Network by now.

QC first had 5, then 7 members from all over Europe, and it was chaired by Lianne Hoogeveen from the start to October 2020. Committee members typically had been active in talent support/care for more than 10 years, in compliance with the relevant requirement, and most of them are also Talent Centre directors. For the list of the current members, see https://etsn.eu/the-qualification-committee/.Following registration in The Netherlands in 2019, the Committee had to be moved from the ECHA to the ETSN pursuant to the Dutch legislation. Consequently, as of Autumn 2019, we speak of the ETSN Qualification Committee. Now the members are elected by the members of the ETSN Network Council, not those of the ECHA.

The task of the QC member is not easy: the work and organisation of other colleagues, often coming from outside European culture, must be assessed based on a single application. It has happened several times that part of the answers received in an application could not be interpreted and further information had to be requested for clarification. Committee members usually agree in their assessment of most applications, but there are some disputed cases every year that have to be discussed and decided upon jointly.

The qualification team has become increasingly integrated during the years thanks primarily to its chairwoman Lianne Hoogeveen, whose open and helpful attitude and commitment to the cooperation of Talent Centres and Points and fair conduct in disputed issues guaranteed smooth work. Now that Lianne has been elected President of the ECHA, she resigned from the Committee, and we must thank her for her work which was a great asset to the emergence and development of the ETSN.

Dr. Lianne Hoogeveen

 

How can institutions join the European Talent Support Network?

The European Talent Support Network (ETSN) is a permanently transforming and developing system; the following entities representing the Network nodes, are its members of equal standing:

  • European Talent Centres
  • European Talent Points
  • Talent Centres/Points located outside Europe are called Associated Centres/Points.

The criteria for becoming a European Talent Centre are defined by the ETSN Qualification Committee (https://etsn.eu/the-qualification-committee/), whereas those to be met by a European Talent Point – primarily registration as Talent Point – are defined by the individual Talent Centres making up the Network or by the Network Council.

Acquiring Talent Centre status

It is not easy to become a Talent Centre: in the application submitted to the relevant call issued once a year, the prospective Talent Centre must be able to demonstrate at the level of a country or major region that

  • it performs professionally sound talent support activity,
  • its professional staff can provide information of appropriate quality on talent support issues,
  • it is open to networking,
  • it transmits information efficiently,
  • it is willing to register Talent Points,
  • it is willing to exchange best practices, to cooperate with the other Centres and take part in joint projects, and
  • it has adequate and secure financial means for all that.

The Call is usually announced on the ETSN website (https://etsn.eu/) in the autumn, it is not open permanently, and it is evaluated by the 7 members of the ETSN Qualification Committee.

 

Acquiring Talent Point status

One of the most essential tasks of European Talent Centres is to map talent support activities delivered in their country/region and to register them in the Talent Map (https://etsn.eu/map-of-etsn/ ). This is a new task relative to the previous ones for most of the Talent Centres, and the procedure itself can be regulated by the Talent Centre concerned individually. That is, each European Talent Centre proceeds individually in accepting registration applications, although there are some common requirements. Note that the Network has much more country members than national Talent Centres; if a country has no Talent Centre, registration is assigned to another Centre or to the so-called Network Council, in particular in the case of Associated Talent Points.

Common requirements for acquiring Talent Point status:

  • Apply via the Network website, any time: https://etsn.eu/apply-to-join-etsn/
  • Submit application via the website and also by e-mail, and send it also to the Network coordinator at the address indicated in the call.
  • The coordinator then forwards the application to the competent Talent Centre(s) or, in the absence thereof, to the Network Council.
  • The competent Talent Centre or the Network Council
    • evaluates the application,
    • notifies the candidate Talent Point of the result,
    • prepares the membership diploma and hands it over to the Talent Point,
    • sends logos, media links and Rules of Organisation and Operation to the Point(s),
    • indicates the Talent Point in the Talent Map ( https://etsn.eu/map-of-etsn/ ) as specified in the relevant Guide,
    • forwards data to coordinator to include the Talent Point in the TalentWeb and the mailing list,
    • provides for its participation in common programmes.

Talent Centres decide on their own on

  • how to recruit Talent Points,
  • how to evaluate their operation (Note that the primary goal is to register all relevant activities taking place in a country.),
  • how solemnly the membership diploma is handed over,
  • in what ways their Talent Points are involved in the flow of information.

Over the years, many countries have developed detailed practices for specific sub-tasks. At the same time, the various Talent Point types show that the value sets and talent programme concepts differ by country, something that is partly understandable, but also worth considering to bring these concepts closer to each other.

It is frequently asked how institutions can be motivated to become Talent Points.

Let’s see some pro arguments:

  • First of all, it is important that they will be registered in a talent map, i.e. become visible from any part of the world, and can thus help in many geographical areas where the recognition of talent support has remained problematic to this day.
  • Inclusion in the talent map is the simplest way to show that interest in talent support has reached a critical mass capable of influencing policies of all kinds.
  • TalentWeb offers a possibility to present your own activity and to learn about actual researches and best practices.
  • Registered entities get emotional and professional support from their Talent Centre; they can be informed about the talent support activities of their country and surroundings via the Talent Centre and be integrated into local networking.
  • When an adequate number of Talent Points is reached, they can start to establish international contacts with each other and if sufficient funds are available, they can also visit each other.
  • They can jointly participate in European tenders.

Of course, how much a Talent Point feels to be the member of the Network depends also on the opportunities/energies available to the Talent Centre(s) of the given country to take part in networking and in delivering information to its/their Talent Points. As mentioned already, these are new tasks to almost all Centres; they are still in the learning phase, looking for the optimum solutions.

Interview with Prof. Péter Csermely about ECHA, ETSN and Totality

Eight years ago Professor Csermely was elected President of ECHA[1] in Münster; four years later, in 2016, ECHA’s members voted for him again. His term in office, which is no longer renewable, has expired recently. This interview is about his 8 years spent as President of ECHA and changes in his life in that period.

What did you think about the importance of ECHA eight years ago and what made you accept the post of president?

It was Franz[2] who invited me to the post. “What if I appointed you president?”, he asked without any preliminaries. An interesting invitation, considering that I had not participated in ECHA’s work before. I did write about talent support in Hungary several times,

but I had no scientific publication in talent support. I believe in gradual development; I do not consider it natural to suddenly invite someone to act as president. I knew that my election could lead to a special situation, i.e. the post of president of ECHA being filled by a person hardly known to its members, with only a few exceptions.

So why did I accept the post of president in an organisation that did not know me? The networking efforts of the Hungarian Talent Point system had been remarkably successful by 2012, and I was very confident that it was worth setting up a similar network in other countries and in Europe as a whole. Organisations such as ECHA could play a potentially decisive role in this process. In fact, this was the most significant reason why I got into such a challenging situation.

As president, I had to learn a lot in the first year or two about how to run a European organisation. I had to understand the different frameworks of interpretation that stem from the diversity of European culture and make them acceptable to members to be able to work together.

ECHA has always brought together the most significant talent support researchers of Europe and the world. As president, I realised that ECHA gives little ground for my original concept, the “organisation of organisations”, due to its structure. Although the opportunity has been there, no more than 4-5 organisations joined ECHA over the years, that is, an “organisation of organisations” in talent support could and had to be created, and this is what ETSN[3] was about. By the end of the second year, we had got used to each other with ECHA, and that was when the main principles of the European Talent Support Network (ETSN).

It is still not clear to all that, despite their similar objectives, the two organisations, ECHA and ETSN, have highly different memberships and profiles. Many keep confusing them, and they fail to understand why the second had to be set up. However, despite their similarities, both have their raison d’être. ECHA is an organisation of individuals; ETSN of organisations. The long-term cooperation agreement of the two multiply the power of both.

Do you consider organisations relying exclusively on persons, such as ECHA, outdated?

Not at all. Talent support is a highly diverse, continuously changing science and practice, demanding diversified approaches, and requiring permanent international consultations. Permanent consultations not only between organisations, but also persons. Many do not, or do not want to affiliate to organisations, and that is fine. Talent support is a personal thing, and it has developed its niche in science cultivated by persons, not organisations. ECHA has a very long future ahead, as indicated by the fact that it has stood the test of time for more than three decades.

How different have you become over the past 8 years, how much has the post of ECHA President changed you?

I have become a completely different person over these 8 years. I could perhaps say I am the same person, but my dominant characteristics are different now. Interestingly, when I read into my writings from 10-12 years ago, I find that I would now describe many things the same way, but they have a completely different meaning for me.

My view of the world has deepened in recent years; I feel I have gained something of a “new understanding”. This new understanding essentially means a much more direct relationship with Totality, where by Totality I mean God, I mean Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, but here, in this context, I would like to highlight the meaning of Totality. I have gained a more ordinary and live understanding of the un-understandable, of what Totality, of which we realise various small slices in our own lives, is in the world.

Talent support, too, falls into place when you are ready to come across someone quite different from you and in many respects much more valuable than you any time. Why? Because that other person reflects another slice of Totality or reflects the same slice to a different degree. Consequently, we mutually disclose some part of Totality, different for each individual. In this sense, the nature of Totality is endless. Each of us, born to this Earth, gets a slice of it. Consequently, we can experience constant amazement in the world; see how beautiful it is; how much it gives us; and with what humility we should relate to everything/everyone we meet. Well, this humility had not been present in me to such extent eight years ago. As I get older and more and more experienced, not in the last about Totality, this hum

ility is developing in me. I consider this a crucial change in myself

How did ECHA change me in the past 8 years? It gave me humility. Because an international, European, arena — if you do not conceive of it as a battlefield, as many do, but a stage for cooperation — helps you learn humility, recognise the assets that different people, habits, traditions, solutions etc. from different countries can give you. I saw this at some depth during my work at ECHA.

Would today’s Péter Csermely have accepted the post of President of ECHA?

Put this way, this is a rather “unhistorical” question: it cannot be answered, because today’s Péter Csermely is past an eight-year presidency. I have always felt people get used up in a specific position over the years, that it, it is imperative that someone else take over the tasks and give an organisation a new approach. How many years —  that is a good question. Nowadays, I realise that in some positions, e.g. that of a pastor or priest in a congregation, you must be able to coexist with a community in the long term, accompany them through ups and downs; suffer and rejoice with them. These situations are not development projects that can be handed over once you had reached your goal, whatever it was.

I could not give ECHA much more. Also, in the meantime, I have moved to a brand new career: I am a university student in theology, preparing to be a Lutheran pastor. This excludes filling such an important post also in terms of time. I am very grateful to Lianne Hoogeveen for accepting the post of president of ECHA from 10 September this year.

What do you consider the biggest achievement of the past 8 years within ECHA?

I consider the establishment of ETSN and its becoming independent the most important achievement. But, in addition, I consider the launch of thematic conferences very important, as it had become clear over the years that many wanted to organise ECHA conferences, but we had to reject many offers. The aim was to have smaller and more specific thematic conferences. Of course, the coronavirus situation makes us re-evaluate many things; we will have to invent creative arrangements also for our conferences.

Another major achievement is that the ECHA education programme has received a transparent framework; for twenty years, there have been excellent programmes all over the world, but they have been far from uniform and lacked monitoring, and this has led to intensifying uncertainty. A legitimate need arose to clarify what was common in these educational programmes. I am most grateful to the Educational Committee led by Professor Christian Fischer for drafting the relevant standards and having them adopted through years of work and international consultations.

I consider it important that transparency has become typical of the work of ECHA also in many other respects: a great part of previously ad hoc decision-making has sound theoretical bases now. I would not say the process is completed, but we are on track.

I was very glad we could adequately celebrate the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the organisation, and we have also collected 25 years of history and the history of the conferences. So the history of ECHA will not be lost without a trace: it has been documented. Let’s not forget that ECHA was born a short time before the systems changes, in 1987, and one of its goals was to reconcile the two halves of Europe, that is, it has been shaped by very special times in Europe.

The above achievements, however, are dwarfed by the fact that I could take Franz Mönks to the London flat of Joan Freeman, and Joan received him there. We arrived with a large bouquet, and Joan received us with lots of photos. During a very nice conversation lasting several hours the founding president and the three-times president of ECHA made up in my presence (after almost twenty years). This was followed by Dublin, where Franz asked Joan to dance at the gala dinner. And Joan said yes. That dance – that was my most important achievement in eight years.

What do you consider the most important achievement of the past eight years in your own life?

My deepened spirituality; my more intensive relationship with Totality that fills me with infinite joy. I can live a much “rounder” life than a few years ago. And this gives me an incredibly amount of purity, humility and poverty (in a broad sense, all of them). The things really worth living for have crystallised in my life. I experienced impoverishment in the good sense, when the superfluous things are omitted from one’s life and only the ones that are really crucial remain. It is clear to me now that the crucial things all relate to Totality.

Totality is a beautiful standard; it has light and it has love. Using these qualities as a compass, one’s life starts to get settled, and after a while it turns into beautiful poverty. Of course, this settling process of my life is still in progress; I am glad I can take steps along this path with the power of grace.

What professional topics occupy you most nowadays?

I have started to realise what is truly important also in my profession. There are very few such things, 2-3 maybe, and it is not certain that you will be the one who detects even one of them, but you will be happy anyway for being involved. There are many traps and temptations also in network research: one could get stuck with certain components or consider whatever he is occupied with an enormous thing. Understanding, intuition of what is really important in a field of science requires lots of time, at least ten years, and also sufficient humility for this to happen. We do not see what is truly important in a field by ourselves, but if we are open, we’ll receive the grace for it. What I am most occupied with in network research currently is how networks change and develop; what activates their development and what makes a single cell learn and how.

Big questions of the world …

Yes, but smaller ones are not worth tackling. In some sense you need to get poor also in this context, and to start to look at life from the perspective of the universe. Then you realise that 90 percent of what you had done before was valueless, and you also realise that you’d better discard it all, no reason to carry it with you. When you omit the unimportant things, you will be much happier and lighter. Maybe sometimes not in this world…

This is concurrent with getting closer and closer to Totality in your life. This proximity, of course, does not exclude everyday activities. To the contrary! Now, for example, we are having a conversation here because of the interview, but I do not only converse with a friend, but also with Totality. It is possible to experience quality time also this way, with one more person: Totality, in other words Jesus Christ, is also sitting at the table with us, but we do not always notice Him. Whereas we should realise that it is only the presence of Jesus Christ that makes the table a table.

Was it difficult to keep ECHA, a very diverse community where theory meets practice, together?

It was difficult. Yes: science and practice meet in this community, but different European practices, different generations and disciplines also meet there, and neither are easily “kept together”.

The core mission of ECHA is to link theory and practice, to bridge the gap between the two. ECHA is excellent in this bridging role. Why is it excellent? Because in this community, scientists do not look down on those active in practice, but learn from them. Take for example Joan Freeman[4], who has been listening to the most practical reports with infinite humility to this day, because she can always find something of interest in each that may even be worth considering scientifically later. But Albert Ziegler[5] is also such a leader, and I could list many others. One could say that all the decisive personalities in ECHA have been like that, including Professor Mönks, of course. This has actually marked ECHA to a large extent: you cannot conceive of this organisation any more without including attentive listening among its essential properties. This is a very nice thing in this organisation.

Do you have a talent concept?

No, I think talent as a notion is very close to Totality; it is close to a complex concept that cannot be reached by reason, only by intuition. It is a beautiful moment when, during a conversation, you realise that the person you are conversing with is highly talented, and you become certain of it. However, it is far from certain that you could also put into words why you think so. I found it beautiful that, as it turned out in conversations with the best talent supporters of the word, this was our common experience.

It is important to define, measure, develop etc. such a colourful thing as talent in diverse ways also scientifically. The essence of science, in my opinion, is that it always gives you something new, just like understanding Totality. It opens up new dimensions, and repeatedly surprises you by its depths. When you feel you are comfortably moving about in a dimension you have become familiar with, suddenly a new depth is revealed, and this process is as endless as Totality itself …

What in your opinion are the most serious challenges in talent support in Europe today?

Let me start out from the virus emergency. This is not an instantaneous condition in the life of humanity. I am convinced we got it to redirect humanity onto a new course. The previous course is unsustainable. Unsustainable in the sense that it is destroying the Earth, and also in that humanity is destroying itself, because it raises the number of the poor to an astonishing extent and gives insatiable unhappiness to the bulk of the rich. The virus warns us that with humility, purity and poverty, in the broad sense, we must restrain ourselves. We cannot continue to devour things as we have done for decades. During our astonishing enrichment in the objective sense, we failed to notice that what we accumulated was garbage, not essential things. If we return to the same way of life, humanity would be destroyed. As ecosystem, the Earth also feels that this course is unsustainable and starts to do something to counter it. It feeds back, what we experience as retaliation. Whereas this is a teaching and a message.

Crises becoming permanent is quite a new situation. Without underestimating the common sense of the average, people with high creativity can help a lot, in an outstanding way. But we have not prepared them adequately to really help find answers. Self-critically, I must admit that I have not done that myself either — talent support has not really faced this problem yet; we must start to prepare the youth much more thoroughly to provide help. As pastor student, I deeply experience the importance and incredibly rich opportunities of this.

In the past years, the number of persons who joined the ECHA Facebook group rose to six thousand. There are five hundred ECHA members… It is interesting to see that the majority of members lives in extremely poor countries without any talent support traditions, outside Europe. This alerts us to the fact that these destitute people consider talent support an outlet for being party to Europe, to talent, to European talent. We, on the other hand, must be able to give them these outlets. This is not altruism pure and simple: it is also in our own interest. I do not mean brain-drain here: we have a single Earth and we would all perish with it if we did not put its omnipresent talents in a position where they can (and want to) ease the worries of the common home. The works of field-workers, such as the head of Narayan Desai Talent Centre, India, who can offer escape routes through talent support for those who have no other perspectives is extremely important. We must try to bring part of the ever poorer population of the Earth within the scope of talent management and support.

May the Almighty grant us strength, wisdom, foresight and mercy for this effort in the highly varied terrain where the paths of our lives lead us!

Csilla Fuszek

[1] ECHA = European Council for High Ability; NGO registered in The Netherlands, founded in 1987

[2] Franz Mönks (1932 – 2020), former president of ECHA

[3] ETSN = European Talent Support Network

[4] Prof. Joan Freeman, UK, founding president of ECHA

[5] Prof. Dr. Albert Ziegler, deputy president of ECHA