Teaching and learning in an international context

Interview with Margaret Sutherland, Senior Lecturer of University of Glasgow

Who are the key elements in education?

I think children are, children everywhere, one of the key elements of education are teachers. The context, however, is very important when thinking about teachers: where they are and how they were trained.

What differs in each country in terms of teaching and learning and gifted education?

There are some things that we know about learning and teaching and these are common things across countries. We know how learners learn and so on. But then we also know that within countries there are very specific things that have to be done and very specific goals at a national level. So, the context is extremely important. Each country has its own national curriculum, different resources, policies, and legislation,  not to mention the cultural differences. In the case of gifted education, it is crucial to see and understand how the given country views highly able people. Is there a national program to support them? There might be, but equally, there might not be because education, and education for the gifted, is interwoven with a country’s philosophical and political views, its cultural history and its economic base. So responses have to take account of these things.

Is it important for the teachers to find a forum where they can share their experiences?

It is hugely important. We need to help teachers to work together because teaching can be very isolating. We need to learn how we can talk to each other, collaborate and  where we can   share our problems and experiences. When you come together and share, it makes you stronger and it can really help you.

Is there a forum to give assistance to teachers in Scotland? How does talent support work in practice in your country?

There are many ways teachers are supported in Scotland. For example, we have Education Scotland, a Scottish Government executive agency charged with supporting quality and improvement in Scottish education. We also have teacher led groups such as Pedagoo and TeachMeet – practice-sharing, not-for-profit movements run by teachers for teachers. Issues relating to learning and teaching are discussed in these forums.

The Scottish Network for Able Pupils) (SNAP) has specialised in teaching and learning for highly able pupils for over 20 years.  There are gaps between research, policy and practice, and we are trying to bring those things together to help teachers. SNAP has offered support and advice to the Scottish Education system in three main areas: publications, staff development and national conferences.

On a practical level SNAP aims to offer a network of support to schools and teachers through sharing ideas and practise, provides forums for debate and discussion, offers advice to schools and teachers on how to provide appropriate challenge for their highly able learners, acts as a critical friend for school-based innovation and  offers advice and information to policy makers.

What can teachers do in everyday practice? What are the layers of talent support?

Teachers should work collaboratively with others in order to give adequate assistance to highly able learners. Effectiveness of leadership within the school is also a crucial component. I mean the way school leaders decide to organize learning and how support is offered can be hugely influential in the level of support a learner received. Different ways are needed to support and organize the learning process for all. We are essentially asking for an individualized education and a universal system, this is what makes it difficult. If you look at for example, the principles of inclusive pedagogy, it is about how we support all, and  not how we support some.

Are there principles that you can use in different places or you must set up your own teaching strategy everywhere?

I think there are some principles around learning and learners, and we need to look at the literature around how learners learn. We also need to look at the literature about what makes a good and effective teacher. So, there are common things that we can take but we have to take into account the national curriculum, culture and learning environment.

You are one of the authors of the online program called EGIFT, which is designed mainly for teachers working in the field of gifted education. This educational material aims to teach and support professionals dealing with highly able people. What made it difficult to compile the teaching material?

Writing something for an international audience is challenging. I think we have to be very careful that we don’t let any particular voice or narrative dominate. There are countries that publish a lot in the field of gifted education, but others can find it difficult to adopt some ideas. Just as policy borrowing is problematic, practice borrowing can be just as difficult. For instance, some of the things that happen in America do so within a specific system and context. We might find it quite hard to implement things in the same way in the Scottish context. It is also challenging to write in such a way that could be accessible and understood wherever you are across the globe.

What are the advantages and perspectives of EGIFT?

The fact that it is online and free is good because it can be literally for anybody who is interested in gifted education and has internet access. Right now, we are heading towards the end of this project and we are focusing on getting to that point. Of course new ideas emerge and so hopefully we can update once it is embedded, if the funding provides opportunity.























TMNP team’s visit to talent centers and talent points in Netherlands, Germany and Hungary

TMNP (India) https://www.tribalmensa.org operates exclusively for the underprivileged sections of the society. It aims for talent identification and nurturing for students coming from remote tribal communities, slum areas and underprivileged socio-economic strata who lack adequate educational and financial opportunities. This visit to talent points in Europe (Hungary and Netherlands) was aimed at understanding how different talent centers and talent points operate. The main objective of this visit was to share learning experiences from other talent centers from a functional and operational view point and to discuss possibilities of future collaborative research.


Visit to Prof Albert Ziegler Working Group; Nürenburg

At Nürenburg University we visited the working Prof Ziegler’s working group. We visited their talent research center and met his PhD students and fellow researchers. It was informative to visit the counselling facility and to interact with the staff there. We gained insights about Prof Ziegler’s 10 resource program and its facilitation by a tool (questionnaire) used at the counselling center. We discussed possibilities of collaborative research pertaining the Panchakosha Model (Nurturing Program) and our data sample with Prof Ziegler’s doctoral students. Dr Desai gave a lecture introducing TMNPs work to the working group. Later, we were shown the technical laboratory and the studio which hosts training workshops and activities for gifted students. At lunch, we had an interesting discussion about future collaborative works and possibilities to work on research from TMNP data set with Prof Ziegler.


Visit to Radboud: Prof Lianne Hoogveen’s working group

We were warmly welcomed by Prof Hoogveen and her working group at Radboud University in the Netherlands. We were shown around the campus and were invited to join a meeting which discussed about application of RITHA program at different educational institutions around Europe. Conversations with members from other educational institutions about giftedness identification and nurturing were enriching. It was interesting to see the wide spread application of RITHA program and was motivating to see their work with talent identification and teachers training. On the next day we were given the opportunity to visit a public Gymnasium (school for the gifted) and interacted with the supervisor of the school. He very kindly explained us about the identification and selection criterion of the school and the way teaching programs run. It was interesting to see how students are taught to take responsibility by letting them choose their curriculum and devising an allied research project. We also discussed the working differences of public schools and private schools which cater for children who are gifted as well as children with special needs. On the following day, we visited Prof Hoogveen’s working group. We had a chance to interact with many of her research colleagues and discuss research ideas pertaining TMNPs student database. At dinner, we met the Prof Monique and Prof Lianne, and discussed about possibilities of getting RITHA program to India. We discussed possibilities of how the program could be tailored to Indian needs and for being suited for teachers working in tribal settings.

Hungary; Visit to Talent points and Centers:

Dr Desai and Dr Shetti visited different Talent Points from Hungary for an exchange of ideas and to see how other Talent Points operate. The visit was arranged by the colleagues of the European Talent Centre, which Centre is part of the European Talent Support Network.

The visits to the Talent Points was coordinated by Csilla Fuszek, the director of the ETSN.


The first visit was to György Bessenyei Secondary School and Dormitory – Kisvárda.

Here, there was a detailed interaction with the director of the school Bíró Gábor, who very kindly spared a lot of time and insights about the school administration. György Bessenyei Secondary School provides high-quality education for gifted students who have varied set of talents and coming from different backgrounds. The school also caters for students coming from underprivileged backgrounds (especially to the Roma community). The school and its staff have brought about a very significant reform in education standard with staff evaluation process wherein educating the educator is addressed. This has rendered in a very high-quality standard education of this institution. Periodic staff evaluation has made education a very iterative and evolving process. Dr Desai also took a lecture about Indian philosophy and Dr Shetti spoke about environmental topics with high school students. The school staff very warmly showed the school, the campus and students training facilities and dormitory. Director Bíró Gábor is doing extensive work to address students from Roma community (an underprivileged ethnic minority all over Hungary) for making education easily available and motivating parents from Roma families to educate their children. It was a very enriching experience to visit this school and dormitory.


The second visit was to Nóra Ritók – Igazgyöngy Alapítvány (Realperl Foundation)- Berettyóújfalu:

Nóra Ritók, the founder of Real Pearl foundation works for the betterment of the underprivileged Roma community in Hajdú-Bihar County. Using art as a medium to create bridges between ethnic minorities and mainstream communities Nora uses art (painting) through an after-school academy to bring children from Roma communities together. Dr Desai and Dr Shetti visited her NGO and one of her work sites in Hajdú-Bihar county. Her approach of art and creativity to break socio-cultural barriers has brought about a remarkable reform in the local Roma community. With her pioneering work, Nóra has started self-help groups in the community which now produce local handicrafts which include paintings, sauces and locally produced food products. With this initiative, she has been successful for motivating parents to educate children and find a livelihood. Local with products are available at  her NGO and on their online portal. Many paintings done by children and women from this community have received international awards. This experience was very key to understand how work with talent and giftedness in underprivileged communities has resulted in new coping and thriving mechanisms for societal uplifting. This was a very nice model to see how non–academic education and creativity can bring about change in society.


The 3rd visit to a school in Hejőkeresztúr:

170 km east of Budapest is the village of Hejőkeresztúr. Dr Desai and Dr Shetti from TMNP with Csilla Fuszek visited a school for underprivileged gifted students in Hejőkeresztúr. The special pedagogical program of the school was started by Dr K. Nagy Emese. As a director she was the pioneer in the institution to introduce the so called Complex Instruction Program (CIP) with the aim of educating students coming from low income families – many times from Roma communities- in the area. Besides the CIP, by using other various educational approaches students from this school rendered national and international excellence. Looking at the progress, students from higher socio-economic status were also attracted to this school. Started as a single school program by Dr K. Nagy Emese, this school is now a benchmark for other schools for gifted students in Hungary. Her relentless efforts have caught the attention of the Hungarian education system and is now taken as a protocol for other intuitions. The educational program follows the baseline of complex instruction program designed initially in the US and then modified K. Nagy Emese and her colleagues. We saw examples of the instruction program by attending a Math class and History class. The approach had collective and individual work for students in a classroom. This enabled every student to identify his or her own role in group work as well as stimulated him to focus on individual work. The teaching pattern was very a novel approach which seemed to make learning experience much interactive and stimulating as compared to normal lecturing in class.



The entire trip was a very enriching experience, with interesting discussions with academicians like Prof Ziegler and Prof Hoogveen who are working at the front for sensitization to giftedness to interactions with institutional heads like Dr Bíró Gábor and Dr K. Nagy Emese to social reformers like Nora Ritok who are working with underprivileged sections of the society. There are many common as aspects and differences in education system that we could observe from an Indian context. Certainly there was a great learning experience we had from this trip. We see that future collaborative work with academicians and NGOs alike would pave a constructive way for Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program.


Be part of the FLOW Network!

FLOW project a special Hungarian initiative that aims to call 31 European countries’ secondary school students to apply for the tender titled “European Flow Student”.

The project, conducted by 22 Hungarian students and teachers, would like to invite European students aged between 14-18 to show what makes them experience “Flow” in sports, music, meeting people and other activities. They can apply by submitting a Prezi presentation, make friends with other applicants and expand their network throughout Europe. The “Flow concept” was invented by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian-American psycholgist saying when “you deeply embark in an activity… time flies…. your whole being is involved and you draw profit from your abilities to the very end.”

For more information please, visit the website of the project:


You can find a film about the initiative here:


Introducing the “BISTRIC” Center for Gifted Child Development in Zagreb, Croatia

Interview with Jasna Cvetkovic-Lay


The “BISTRIC” Center was established in 1995 with the aim of supporting the special needs of 4-10 year-old children with advanced abilities and standing by their parents and teachers.  It was founded by Jasna Cvetkovic-Lay, a psychologist, an ECHA specialist and now the program coordinator of the Center.

“Bistric” is an NGO that provides workshops and extra-curricular enrichment for gifted children, in-service teacher trainings in gifted education and counselling for parents, thus creating a direct professional help to adults and professionals around children in the educational system. They offer playgroups for 4-7 year-old children and activity-oriented workshops for primary school children (7-10 years) and they also provide activities for twice exceptional students based on the principles of project work, deepness, enrichment and raising interest. In the past years in addition to workshops and trainings the Centre was involved in several applied activities and projects supported by national and local educational institutions, they organized an international conference about national networks for gifted children in 2000. In 2016 the Center was officially registered as a European Talent Point and became part of the European Talent Support Network.

In a typical school year the staff of the Center (2 leaders and 4 mentors) carries out about a hundred workshops for 25-30 gifted children , and teacher training courses for about 50-80 participants.

They have published several handbooks and booklets with topics including how to conduct and create enrichment programs for gifted children aged between 4-10, and how to support them in a family and an educational setting.


  • Why did you found this institution more than 20 years ago? What were your personal reasons?


All of us are personally motivated to initiate something significant in our own lives or in our fields. It is the situation with me, too: I come from a creative family, with a mother who was a self-taught artist and a “natural talent”, and with an engineer-innovator father, and now I am married to a very creative and talented man, who is well-known in Croatia as a person who has changed and improved the whole domain of informatics and ICT education significantly (https://hr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branimir_Makanec). So, from the very beginning, I was sensitized to the field of creativity and talent, especially the one that manifests itself in concrete products. In addition, I work in a public preschool institution with very specifically educated and talented educators and preschool teachers, who recognize and encourage talent in children through various domain-specific programs.  At this point, Croatian schools are not sufficiently adapted to the special needs of gifted students so it is important to offer them quality extracurricular programs and continuously educate teachers in the field of gifted education.


  • What does its name “Bistric” mean?


It means a very smart (clever) young child (of preschool and early school age). On Croatian word “bistar” means smart/clever and “Bistrić” is diminutive targeting the young population.


  • Why is this age group so important in your opinion?


The preschool and early school years are very sensitive because of the neurological indicators of brain development and the flexibility of the child’s brain, as well as of the latency period when the child is free from the influence of hormones that significantly influence development and intellectual processes in the later years. Children of this age, especially gifted ones, are very receptive, enthusiastic, quick and easy learners, and develop quickly in the intellectual domains. In short, it is a pleasure to work with them.

  • What kind of workshops do you offer for children? How do you plan the topics and methodology?


We offer extracurricular enrichment programs aimed at encouraging creative, logical and scientific thinking and digital skills.  They consist of wide-ranging types of activities with specialized didactics and equipment included. Methodically, games and activities take place in small groups (up to 5 participants), with mentoring and working in pairs. Many activities focus on team cooperation aimed to develop social skills of the gifted, in addition to challenges in the field of the expressed abilities. Activities are planned in accordance with the principles of enrichment, deepening and encouragement of the most prominent abilities and talents and socializing with children of similar abilities and interests.


  • If there are more applicants than you can accept, how do you choose the participant children?


Many schools and kindergartens in Croatia have undergone some form of education in cooperation with our Center, so educators and teachers may offer this opportunity to children nominated as potentially gifted, but parents themselves can also submit backed with their own observations. All nominated children pass through an admission and reception process that includes written observations through checklists, psychological testing, as well as observation in enriched environment.


  • What are your biggest challenges nowadays?


Unfortunately, the economic crisis has also hit Croatia, which means that we have lots of gifted children whose parents are unemployed or have little income and can’t provide them with additional high-quality programs. Therefore, the Center launched a humanitarian project through which we find donors to enable such children to attend the program at our Center. Some of the donors are especially sensitive because once they themselves were gifted children and now are successful business people – most often in abroad.


  • You also wrote and edited several handbooks about the practical aspect of gifted education. Why do you think it is important to write about practice?


People who work in practice (preschool and elementary school teachers, educators) need a set of specific tips and procedures how to work with the gifted, and need to be familiar with a wide range of games and activities, with specialized methods and goals of application as well. Part of our in-service trainings for practitioners is carried out in a way that they work directly with gifted students in the workshops in our Center and then receive practical guidelines in brochures. Handbooks and brochures are part of our educational materials for in-service trainings.


  • If you look over past years’ experiences, do you recognize any tendencies, negative or positive changes in the field of gifted education in your city and in your country?


The changes on a state level are much slower than the experts in the field of gifted education would like them to be, but they are happening. For example, the public preschool institution and kindergarten in which I work, in January 2018 was officially appointed by the Croatian Ministry of Science and Education as an Expert Developmental Center for the gifted, after 30 years of my intensive work in the field! As I say, it is very slow but at least happened. Also, several public educational institutions and non-governmental organizations in Croatia have become part of the ETSN, and an official document at the state level has been drafted that should regulate work with gifted students. But it is still ahead of us to get the appropriate conditions for its application in educational practice.


  • How do you see the following years? What are your plans for the near future?


I see the future optimistically. When I started working with gifted pre-school children in 1993, at the First Experimental program of that kind in Croatia with the permission of our Ministry, I was an exception and very lonely. Now, a lot of colleagues are dealing with this topic, and many of them say that I have inspired them. Some are educated as ECHA Specialists also, while I have been the only one in Croatia since 2000.  What I plan in the future is to acquire a PhD in the field of Early Identification of Creative-productive giftedness, under the mentorship of dr. Mojca Juriševič from CRSN in Ljubljana.



  • What are the benefits of networking within the country (network of preschool experts) and internationally, and belonging to organizations like the ETSN?


These benefits are huge from exchanging experience and good practice to a greater impact on slow state institutions. As Csilla Fuszek and Peter Csermely constantly emphasize, this power of horizontal networking is much larger than we would expect. I am very pleased that our Center is part of this network.





Call for application to be a European Talent Centre or an Associated European Talent Centre

The Qualification Committee invites European or in case of Associated Centres non-European talent support organisations to submit their application to become a European or Associated European Talent Centre. [1]

A European Talent Centre should be an organisation, or a distinct part of a larger organisation, established for this role. European Talent Centres might organise activities in the field of high ability in a region or a country (meaning that there might be more than one European Talent Centre per European country, and applications may cover more than one country).

A Scoring Sheet that accompanies the application form can be downloaded from HERE. The Qualification Committee will evaluate your application by aggregating the scores as a whole. Applications will not be judged against each criteria separately. Successful proven past activity and potential future engagements in the field would be of key importance in this process. [2]

Existing European Talent Centres will be re-evaluated every other year (i.e. in 2020, 2022 etc.) by the Qualification Committee of ECHA to ensure that they still fulfil the criteria. If the criteria are no longer fulfilled, the title of European Talent Centre may be suspended or withdrawn by the Committee.

Please complete the on-line Application Form by 30 November 2018. The Application Form will be sent to the Secretary of the Qualification Committee, Csilla Fuszek. Please email any queries to qualification@echa.info



[1] The 2014 General Assembly of ECHA agreed that ECHA will support, regulate and guide the formation of a European Talent Support Network. European Talent Centres will form the hubs of this Network, while European Talent Points will be its nodes.

Aims and details of the European Talent Support Network can be found in the document downloadable from: http://echa.info/images/documents/high-ability/European-Talent-Support-Network-ECHA-General-Assembly.pdf


[2] You can find more information on  the results of the first round (2015) and the second round (2016) of applications at the official website of ECHA.




Looking back at the EGIFT Summer School in Ljubljana

Thoughts by the Hungarian participants

“The presentations let me expand my knowledge and rethink the components of my talent support work integrated in some kind of a system, a framework. I found the lectures on the identification of and talent support to multiply extraordinary children the most useful…

At the workshops, I got acquainted with work going on at Ljubljana University, and I was glad to see that I could adapt several of the many novelties to my college work. I am thinking of creative cooking that we’ll try with the children during the Arany János Dormatory weekends. It was most interesting to see technological novelties that we’ll hopefully be able to test also at the college (e.g. 3D printer).

…it was most useful that the workshops provided us an image of talent nurturing practice in various countries, and we had an opportunity to discuss our experience… Thanks to the Ljubljana training, our college established contacts with two institutions and we expect long-term cooperation with them. One institution is Hamburg-based Nelson Mandela Schule; we’ll try to cooperate with them primarily in the field of talent support to disadvantaged children, the other is Anton Ukmar Primary School in Koper, we would like to exchange experience concerning environmental protection and to familiarise with the projects, best practices there. We have invited the representatives of both institutions to our college to get acquainted and do some professional work together and, later on, we would also welcome student groups from both institutions.

… it was nice to see that talent support is given a priority role also in other countries of Europe, and they apply the same holistic approach as our institution.” (Teacher Tímea Pap, Kodály Zoltán Kollégium, Pécs)

“…I expected the EGIFT training to confirm that our school was on the right track in the field of talent support, and I wanted to learn about new guidelines and, if possible, establish contacts with educational institutions of other nations. Most participants of the further training course were primary school teachers, and church schools were only represented by myself and a colleague, so my last wish was not fulfilled. …

I found most surprising the workshop where we were introduced to a training kitchen and had to make a dish that would figure on the menu of one of our national kitchens based on the given basic ingredients in 40 minutes. The wish to fulfil the task at hand as best we could soon overcame our surprise.  … I have a new class from September, and I have assessed already during freshers’ week that a significant part of my pupils, boys included, loved to bake and cook. Thinking further based on this information and supplementing it with some elements I saw in cooking contests on TV, I will announce a multi-round cooking competition to my class that will rely on their creativity and previous experience. Also, I make no secret of my intention to strengthen the class community, so children will have to work in groups. I hope that the program will bring to the foreground also students whose study results are not so strong, and it will turn out who in the class are suitable for leader, manager, organiser roles.” (Dorottya Farsang, Deputy School Director, Baár-Madas Reformed High School, Budapest)


 “…The lectures made us think, they relayed known and also new pieces of information. The workshops demonstrated how far we can go with students who are talented in a discipline and also motivated.

…I had many conversations with colleagues I got acquainted with there on how they treated their students. Of the workshops, I could really identify with the drama session and the literature lesson, with music and in particular rap music being an emphatic element in the latter.” (Éva Győrfi, teacher, Reformed Primary School, Berettyóújfalú)

“…For me, the most interesting aspect of the course was that talent support and various learning and other difficulties were continuously spoken about in parallel, since the groups concerned often overlap. It was instructive to compare the experience of participants from other countries with the Hungarian practice and the practice of my own school. …

… I found particularly interesting and progressive the presentation of Dr. Gregor Torkar on the natural science projects, and although I am in humanities myself, I found the report of Bostjan Kuzman on the camps organised for mathematics talents most exciting. As practicing teacher, I am most enthralled by the practical ideas, the best practices I can “steal”; nevertheless, I listened to the theoretical lectures of Dr. Mojca Jurisevic with great interest and I also found the recommended technical literature useful.

I liked the diversity and optional nature of the workshops. I would like to underline the workshop of Mojca Cepic showing a project on testing severely disadvantaged children in a very practice-oriented and down-to-earth way. I think this presentation impressed me most during the whole training course.” …

…it is important for me that I feel we at Lauder School are not in arrears in the field of talent support, we have many forward-pointing initiatives – the training course confirmed that we are on the right track. I managed to establish contacts with nice Hungarian and foreign colleagues, hopefully, we’ll proceed to technical cooperation.” (Kinga Máhr, Lauder Javne School, Budapest)