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

Aims of ETSN

The aims of ETSN as organisation were formulated for the first time five years ago, in 2015. Later on, in 2019, the original concepts were included in the Articles, the rules of operation of the organisation, with certain addenda. We thought it would be good to draw up a short summary of the aims taken out of the original documents to think over their current status/degree of achievement today, 5 years after ETSN’s establishment in 2015.

Let us start by pointing out that, over the past 5 years, ETSN has become the biggest European NGO in the field of talent support, with more than 400 member institutions. It has also made the diversity of talent support organisations more visible by showing them in its Talent Map.

We know that ETSN membership has been an asset to the cause of talent support in several countries, although this is difficult to quantify. Of course, we have not reached the “ultimate” goal. turning into a “critical mass”, a force to be taken into account also by European decision-makers. Five years, however, is not a long time in this context, especially since we speak of a grassroot movement here in a field which is often subject to controversial judgements in Europe.

The grassroot quality applies more to the activity of the Talent Centres, the drivers of the Talent Point system which is more of a network built from top-down. Talent Centres are meant to make the institutions (the Talent Points) active in talent support day by day, understand why it is important for them to be present at European level jointly.

The member institutions of ETSN are highly diverse. This diversity – the coexistence of talent support forms of various types – was one of the aims. We wanted to show that talent support can be effective, in terms of institutional frameworks and also methodological solutions, in various ways. We work continuously to make this colourful network a community of mutually supportive entities in lively relationships with each other – although this is not very simple to realise given the linguistic differences.

As for moulding the Talent Centres into a community, Erasmus+ coordinated by the Irish Talent Centre and also the meetings in Budapest have already helped a lot, but there remains a lot to be done here.

The primary goal of networks is always to ensure the smooth flow of information within the Network and to exchange best practices (know hows) through that. The Network Council has realised this and pays special attention to presenting as many best practices as possible in its quarterly newsletter. This goal has partly been met, but the relevant activity of Talent Centres and Talent Points fluctuates: it would be good if more would present their work and best practices in the talent support field. Positive conduct is often a must to make the Network viable, since information sharing is the tool helping us to have ever new research ideas and joint projects.

We have obviously set out on a journey already: we can be proud of many things, but we still need to make progress in many areas, which will obviously be easier this way, collectively.  Our direct goal is to access more and bigger EU funding to facilitate starting new joint projects, visiting each other, supporting talents and establishing new contacts.

I recommend everybody to re-read the aims summarised below.

 

Aims of the Network: 

  1. increase the identification of highly abled young people in Europe;
  2. provide different types of support to highly abled young people (educational, financial, moral, etc.) beyond what is currently provided in this field;
  3. boost research activity in the field of high ability and related areas as well as to help transfer findings into practice;
  4. extend the current Network members’ framework of best practices (from policies to educational know-hows) to the field of high ability both in Europe and internationally;
  5. demonstrate that persons involved in the field of high ability have reached a “critical mass” at the European level that needs to be taken into account when discussing EU and national policies related to high ability throughout Europe (such as education, research, innovation, social affairs, public health, etcetera);
  6. help to further increase membership to the European Council for High Ability (ECHA) by increasing the number of people knowing and acknowledging ECHA’s activities in theory, research, and practice;
  7. create a community that focuses on the different needs of the highlyabled that is not exclusively academic in its outlook;
  8. develop a culture that promotes respect and celebrates diversity within this community.

 

European Talent Support Network (ETSN) founded in September 2015 celebrates its 5th anniversary in September 2020

The European Talent Support Network (ETSN), established with the substantial contribution of the European Council of High Ability (ECHA), managed by Hungarian President Professor Péter Csermely in the last 8 years, celebrates its 5th anniversary on 29 September 2020. We have drawn up a short summary of the achievements and chronology of the first five years of ETSN. 

The European Talent Support Network was officially founded on 29 September 2015 in the Brussels European Parliament building, in the presence of senior EU officials and MEPs. The founders were the first 14 winner European Talent Centres of the call announced by the ECHA Qualification Committee. The applicant countries committed themselves inter alia to the deployment of a Talent Centre/Talent Point system and to developing a registration system for institutions engaged in talent support activities (Talent Points). The first meeting of Talent Centre representatives held at the same place, with the participation of these 14 centres, adopted the guidelines for the criteria of European Talent Point status.

In the years that followed (2016-2019) the above call has been announced annually, together with calls for Talent Points; as a result, there were 21 active Talent Centres in Europe and 4 outside Europe by early 2020.  There were two in each of Austria, Belgium and Germany; one each in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. The four non-European TCs were in India, Peru, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The number of European Talent Points, present in 47 countries already, has exceeded 400. In practice, this means that ETSN is the organisation gathering the highest number of talent-support-focused organisations, however different they might be, in Europe, more than half of which come from European public education institutions. 

ETSN increasingly focuses on the coordination of joint European work and the quality assurance of its operation. Therefore, it has been managed since end-2016 by a 5-strong elected Network Council (NC), with Csilla Fuszek from the European Talent Centre within MATEHETSZ acting as Network Council coordinator, and Prof Dr Albert Ziegler as president elected for the second time.

Work within ETSN has led to creating the website and newsletter of the Network (TalentWeb). The annual number of copies of the newsletter has been increased gradually, and it has acquired a special profile with mainly European best practices in talent support in the focus. The newsletter has provided a self-presentation opportunity for several Hungarian best practices in this field. The Network website features a so-called European Talent Map with basic information about the associated organisations. 

The year 2019 was marked by ETSN becoming a registered European NGO and by the drafting of its rules of organisation and operation: Articles adopted by the members of the Network almost unanimously (with one abstention). This, of course, has altered the relationship between ECHA and ETSN, as set out in a mutual cooperation agreement. The main difference was that the Qualification Committee  became part of ETSN. 

The summit of the European Youth Platform has been organised annually since 2016, with the exception of this year (2020). It was hosted by Vienna, Budapest, Dublin and Dubrovnik, and gave the youth an annual opportunity to get acquainted with ETSN in more depth, to present their own education systems, and delve into the issues of talent support. 

The Hungarian Talent Centre has organised so-called “Budapest meetings” annually since 2016 for representatives of the Talent Centres of the Network, to pass key strategic decisions, present new Talent Points and establish new network contacts – this meeting could be called the “soul” of ETSN. For the known reasons, we could only organise an on-line meeting in 2020 so far, dedicated to the analysis of changes due to Covid-19.  

Budapest Meetings of Talent Centre representatives, 2016, 2017

As can be seen from the above, ETSN is a young and dynamically developing network; it has acquired hundreds of institution members over 5 years, and it is becoming increasingly well-known globally. Hopefully, this dynamism will prevail in the next 5 years, and intra-Network contacts will strengthen. 

Links and articles/writings referred to in the text and in the chronology below will hopefully give the reader an opportunity to study the development of the Network in more depth. 

Brief chronology of European Talent Support Network events after the 2016 ECHA General Assembly

2015 

  1. 29 September: Brussels, European Union Parliament Building; Foundation of the European Talent Support Network by the first 14 Talent Centres qualified by the ECHA Qualification Committee; 1st official meeting of EU Talent Centre representatives 
  2. 15 October: The ECHA Qualification Committee invites European or in case of Associated Centres non-European talent support organisations to submit their application to become European or Associated European Talent Centres: https://www.echa.info/call-for-application-to-be-a-european-talent-centre-or-an-associated-european-talent-centre-in-the-european-talent-support-network

2016

  1. 3 March: 5th meeting of the Qualification Committee (Vienna)
  2. 10 April: 2nd Call to be a European Talent Centres was published
  3. 20 April: successful promotion of the European Talent Support Network in Ljubljana, Slovenia involving 28 European Talent Points in Slovenia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Serbia
  4. 8 May: 12 proposals from 11 countries received for the 2nd Call to be European Talent Centres
  5. 10 June:  6th meeting of the Qualification Committee (Dublin); in July, five new European Talent Centres were accepted from Denmark, Germany and Greece and two Associated European Talent Centres from India and Peru
  6. July: the Youth Platform of the European Talent Support Network (having at that time 33 members from 15 countries) elected its interim representative, Armin Fabian, and his deputy Lukas Kyzlik
  7. August: the Youth Platform published its description and membership criteria http://echa.info/175-youth-platform-of-the-european-talent-support-network-description-of-aims-and-membership-criteria   
  8. 30 September: 261 proposals received  for the second call on European Talent Points
  9. October: election of the 1st Council of the European Talent Support Network: Albert Ziegler president/chairman, Csilla Fuszek coordinator/secretary, Colm O’Reilly treasurer / Antonios Apostolou / Mojca Jurisevic
  10. 27 October: 1st meeting of the interim Youth Platform Council in Budapest
  11. 28 October: 2nd official meeting of the EU Talent Centre representatives in Budapest
  12. 28-29 October: 1st meeting of the Network Council in Budapest
  13. December: election of the first Council of the Youth Platform: Marco Agozzino (Italy), Armin Fabian (Romania), Liliana Gerse (Austria), Lukas Kyzlik (Czech Republic) and Elle Loughran (Ireland)

2017

  1. 29 March – 2 April: 2nd Second European Youth Summit held in Budapest with 63 participants from 17 countries and 20 nationalities (Summits in the future will be held at the ECHA International/Thematic Conference of that year)
  2. 31 March: 1st Network Council meeting in 2017 in Budapest
  3. June 2017: homepage of the European Talent Support Network goes live: https://etsn.eu
  4. 19 June: 3rd Call to become a European Talent Point issued (application process made continuous from the beginning of 2018 )
  5. 3 August: 3rd Call to become a European Talent Centre was issued on the ETSN website
  6. 20 September: 2nd Network Council meeting in Ljubljana
  7. 22 October: 9 proposals received from 9 different countries to the 3rd Call to become a European Talent Centre: 
  8. 16 October: after careful preparation, a summary of the needs of gifted and talented young individuals drafted by he First European Youth Summit in Vienna, 2016 was published: http://echa.info/212-summary-on-the-needs-of-gifted-and-talented-students-by-participants-of-the-first-european-youth-summit-vienna-29-feb-5-march-2016 
  9. 11-14 November: Youth Platform Council and Project leaders meeting in Budapest
  10. 23 November: ECHA Qualification Committee meeting in Dublin; new European Talent Centres accepted from Belgium, Portugal and Spain as well as a new Associated Centre from the United Arab Emirates.
  11. 24 November: 3rd Network Council meeting in Dublin

2018

  1. 11 January: the European Talent Support Network started its regular Newsletter called TalentWeb: https://etsn.eu/talentweb-newsletter/
  2. 9 February: 3rd official meeting of European Talent Centre representatives in Budapest and 1st Network Council meeting in 2018
  3.  By January: altogether around 350 Talent Points of 42 countries had registered to the Network, and the number of European Talent Centres rose from 14 to 23, including 20 European and 3 non-European ones (located in the United Arab Emirates, in India and in Peru, respectively), over the 2.5 years since the first meeting
  4. April: the European Talent Support Network started its plans to become a European NGO and formulated its Articles – please find it enclosed as an Annex of this report.
  5. June: Youth Platform Project in the Czech Republic organized by Czech Talent Centre – 
  6. 8 August: 2nd  issue of the TalentWeb was sent out
  7. 10 August 1st ETSN General Assembly meeting during the ECHA Conference
  8. 8-11 August: 3rd European Youth Summit was held in Dublin parallel with the ECHA Conference: https://etsn.eu/working-with-gifted-students-in-the-21st-century-echa-conference-in-dublin-ireland-from-8th-august-to-11th-august/
  9. 15 October: 4th  Call for application to be a European Talent Centre or an Associated European Talent Centre in the European Talent Support Network
  10. December: Election of the 2nd  Council of the European Talent Support Network: Albert Ziegler president/chairman, Csilla Fuszek coordinator/secretary, Colm O’Reilly treasurer / Antonios Apostolou / Mojca Jurisevic

2019

 

  • January: Election of the Youth Platform Council of the ETSN

 

  1. 21. January: ETSN Council Meeting, Nürnberg
  2. 4 April: 3rd issue of the TalentWeb was sent out 
  3. 4-6 April: 4th official meeting of EU Talent Centre representatives in Budapest; ETSN Network Council meeting, Budapest
  4. 30 May: 2nd ETSN General Assembly meeting – on-line voting on the Article; out of the voting 97 institutions 95 voted yes  and 2 abstained
  5. 11 July: Registration of the ETSN in the Netherlands 
  6. 2 September: 4th issue of the TalentWeb was sent out 
  7. 15-19 October 4th European Youth Summit was held in Dubrovnik parallel with the ECHA Conference 
  8. 15 October: 3rd ETSN General Assembly meeting
  9. 23 November: ETSN Network Council meeting, Dublin
  10. 24 November: Launch of the EGIFT project, Dublin
  11. 29 November:  5th Call for Application to be a European Talent Point or to be an Associated European Talent Point: https://etsn.eu/apply-to-join-etsn/ 
  12. 29 November:  5th Call for application to be a European Talent Centre or an Associated European Talent Centre in the European Talent Support Network
  13. 5 December: 5th issue of the TalentWeb was sent out

2020

 

  • By the beginning of the year, ETSN had 25 Talent Centre and more than 400 Talent Points in 47 Countries

 

  1. 28-29 February: Youth Platform Council meeting, Budapest and on-line, preparation of the Youth Summit Guideline: https://etsn.eu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/The-ETSN-Youth-Platform-and-Youth-Summit-Guidelines.pdf
  2. 8 April: Network Council on-line meeting
  3. 17 April: 6th issue of the TalentWeb
  4. 9 May: 5th (1st on-line) meeting of EU Talent Centre representatives
  5. 14 May: ETSN on-line Qualification Committee meeting 
  6. 11. June: Network Council on-line meeting
  7. 23 June: 7th issue of the TalentWeb
  8. 2. July: Network Council on-line meeting on the Qualification Process

 

Talentweb Newsletter Issue 7

WORDS FROM THE CHAIRMAN

Dear ETSN Family:

The Covid-19 pandemic has directly and indirectly led to creative alternatives to the way we communicate with each other. Despite the difficulties presented by the international response to the corona virus, the ETSN capitalized on opportunities for growth through persistent virtual communication among all of its members. Consider the following two examples in which I am involved.

Example 1: ETSN Council Meeting

Our ETSN Council meetings have always been held offline. Council members are typically very active within the gifted education community, and as a result, there are always opportunities through which to collaborate, for meetings and get-togethers. But these opportunities presented themselves in a rather sporadic fashion, and unfortunately, were not as frequent as would have been desirable. Now we’ve started to hold intensive virtual meetings on the first Thursday of every month. Moreover, there were certainly points of contact between Council members in the past – but these occasions were bilateral. Even if in-person contacts retain a special quality of their own, the regularity and frequency of communication with which the ETSN continues to operate in the face of an international emergency is indeed, a clear indication of progress within the network. For our members, the aforementioned consistency creates special advantages. One such advantage is that concerns and suggestions addressed to the Council can be discussed promptly. Members, please make use of this opportunity for swift communication!

Example 2: Talent Center—Talent Points—Networking

A Southern German Talent Center meeting with ETSN Talent Points had been scheduled for last week, far in advance of the lockdown situation. The meeting was cancelled because of university closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of in-person contact, we held this meeting virtually. Surprisingly, these virtual meetings spaces have allowed the network and its members to grow closer together and have even spurred several new initiatives. I strongly believe that both our Talent Centers and Talent Points can stand to benefit from such a positive and intimate approach to virtual communication. After all, aren´t virtual meetings and contact points a democratic and promising approach to professional growth and network collaboration?

In light of the rapid changes to our way of life and approach to work, can the two examples captured above illuminate a path for the ETSN’s future development? I think so.

Of course, I remain hopeful that we will soon have the opportunity for real, personal exchange. Nonetheless, to make the best out of a difficult situation, and toward continued and sustainable growth, ETSN members have created new and maneuvered existing opportunities for virtual communication anywhere in the world. As leaders, it is our job to build off of the groundwork that they and others within the field have laid. Thus, together with the ETSN Council, I would like to encourage all Talent Centers and Talent Points to take advantage of the novel situation and employ new communication channels to continue to develop a professional network.  Let us remember the quote by Mary Anne Radmacher: “Even from a dark night, songs of beauty can be born.” Perhaps even in the midst of the darkness caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, new connections and welcomed cooperation will be borne from our efforts.

I encourage you to visit the ETSN map: https://etsn.eu/map-of-etsn/. There, I am certain that you will discover points of contact, moments for collaboration and international cooperation. Before the pandemic, creating physical rather than exclusively digital spaces of opportunity had been unique to the ETSN. Why not go virtual?

Prof. Dr. Dr. Albert Ziegler, Chairman of the ETSN

 

In this issue:

Talent Point in Action: Wind at the Back

Talent Centers in Action: EGIFT – European Gifted Education Training

Talent Center in Action: CTY Greece

Upcoming Event and Invitation to Collaborate: Hacettepe University Research and Application Center for Gifted Individuals

Collaboration Hub: Become part of a vibrant international community at Global Talent Mentoring!

Talent Point in Focus: Kaveri Gifted Education and Research Center

Upcoming Event: “High Abilities and Giftedness: Shared Responsibilities”, 3-5 December 2020, Braga, Portugal

Talent Point in Action: Faculty of Teacher Training of the Károli Gáspár University of the Reformed Church in Hungary

Upcoming Event: “Closing the Achievement Gaps in Gifted Education”, 2nd ECHA Thematic Conference, March 25-27 2021, Budapest, Hungary

Talent Center in Action: Mawhiba Turns Crisis into Seeds of Opportunity

Talent Point in Action and Invitation to Collaborate: Primary school „Petar Zoranić“

Talent Center in Action: Centro Huerta del Rey

Talent Point in Focus: The Hong Kong Academy for Gifted Education

Talent Point in Action: Primary school Stjepan Radić Bibinje

Invitation for News and Talent Web Contributions

Mentors sought for a unique program: Become part of a vibrant international community at Global Talent Mentoring!

Global Talent Mentoring is an online mentoring program that fosters excellence in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical sciences (STEMM) worldwide for exceptionally talented youth through evidence-based, long-term, online mentoring. Global Talent Mentoring is the flagship offering of the World Giftedness Center by the UNESCO- recognized Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation for Distinguished Academic Performance in Dubai, UAE. The program has been developed by a research team led by Prof. Dr. Heidrun Stoeger at the University of Regensburg in Germany.

The program combines mentoring with collaborative and interdisciplinary discussion of and work on STEMM topics in projects and challenges, and offers a singular opportunity for networking among like-minded talents and experts. The mentees are truly outstanding, hardworking, young talents in STEMM from around the world—and exceptionally motivated to pursue excellence in a specific STEMM domain. The mentors are scientists in STEMM as well as other practicing STEMM experts working in the private and public sectors. The program is free of charge for the participants and starts in late 2020.

What are the benefits of becoming a mentor volunteer for Global Talent Mentoring?

Mentors become part of an inspiring and intellectually stimulating global network of other STEMM experts and highly motivated, extraordinarily talented students. Many exceptionally talented young people live in countries that cannot provide them with the infrastructure to develop their talents to the fullest. The expert mentors in Global Talent Mentoring make the valuable contribution of equal access to knowledge by supporting these mentees with their excellence and experience in STEMM. Mentors experience firsthand how brilliant young personalities grow and develop their potential and talents in STEMM during the mentoring process.

How can you become a mentor volunteer?

Global Talent Mentoring is currently looking for mentor volunteers! If you are a STEMM expert and would like to mentor, please fill out our Mentor Volunteer Form at www.globaltalentmentoring.org/mentor For more information about Global Talent Mentoring’s background, goals, and operations, please visit www.globaltalentmentoring.org Mentor registrations for the next round of mentoring are currently being accepted through 31 July 2020.

Talent Center in Action: CTY Greece

Transforming problems and challenges into ideas and opportunities: New digital summer courses

CTY Greece at Anatolia College, 555 35 Thessaloniki, 2310398253, cty@anatolia.edu.gr

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”
― Albert Einstein

The dismay and confusion stirred by the COVID-19 outbreak across Europe didn’t take long to reach our doorstep here at CTY Greece. In the last months, schools were closed down, social distancing was enforced and the country finally came to a complete lockdown in late March, to help control the spread of the virus.

And as scientists were racing to understand and contain this novel virus, CTY Greece began turning the coronavirus pandemic into an opportunity for change and improvement, adopting a mindset of progress through new ideas and ways of offering educational experiences to its students. It is not the first time that CTY Greece has been fast at adapting to real-world conditions (let us not forget the financial crisis Greece faced in 2015 with major economic consequences for its citizens and stakeholders). But being a talent center, CTY Greece’s people have always been geared toward flexibility, re-design, innovation and an unceasing drive to advance and improve every program and service they offer. After all, these are the kind of principles that are passed onto the talented students who join the CTY Greece community. They are encouraged to express their ideas and are empowered to believe that their contribution can (and will) make a change in the world they live in. So, it was actually quite natural for something new to emerge swiftly given the current worldwide situation. Thus, a new digital program – the CTY Greece Digital Summer Program – has been developed for the gifted and talented youth of Greece and Cyprus.

As educators, we are challenged in teaching face-to-face classes when the health and safety of students and teachers need to be guarded, as is the case in these extraordinary times. However, as pedagogues, we have the duty to serve the needs of our students regardless of impediments. Thus, the new digital program emerged as an addition to our existing online program. The program will be based on a combination of synchronous and asynchronous teaching. And of course, it will incorporate a fun activities program aimed at providing opportunities for students to play, have fun and bond with their peers. Already it is looking like an amazing program that will spark student enthusiasm and provide unique academic experiences to our students. Let us not forget that talented students, like all students, have different learning styles and we have seen from our existing online programs, that some students can really sparkle in an online learning environment – we are referring to those particular students who stress in brick-and-mortar schools and who unleash their talents when they feel they are not fully exposed. We need to provide blended learning experiences to all of our students, combining online, digital and face-to-face opportunities according to their needs and to the situations that they face.

But apart from an unparalleled experience for its students, CTY Greece views the new digital summer program as a superb training opportunity for its instructors to reach a higher level of professionalism. CTY Greece educators have already begun to be trained in the technology needed for their online courses and are becoming equipped with best practices and strategies that go hand in hand with effective online teaching. For CTY Greece the difference between status quo and reaching higher goals, for both students and educators, is based on a pro-active improvement attitude, on innovative thinking and on working hard as a team to turn problems into solutions and opportunities!

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.” Stephen Hawking

Link: https://www.cty-greece.gr/en