Interview with Prof. János Győri on his last published book

We asked Prof. János Győri about his interest in the Hungarian math education particularly in the so called special math classes, a few months ago his book on the same topic was published by MATEHETSZ:

Csilla Fuszek: What made you interested in special maths programs and in particular the special maths classes of Fazekas Grammar School in the first place? What researches did you conduct on this topic and were there any similar ones? What is your opinion of this form of talent support?

Prof. János Győri: I have dealt with the issues of giftedness and in particular the education and methods of pedagogical development of talented children for more than a quarter of a century. The nature and development of mathematical talent has always been one of the most interesting topics in talent research and literature and also in public discourse. This may have several reasons: first, the clear social importance of mathematics acknowledged for thousands of years; second, the somewhat mysterious origin of this ability for many and, third, this being a domain that can be identified early and developed well – contrary to quite a number of other talent domains. I myself have never been good at maths, and I have felt bad about it. This is how I became interested in what I could understand, if not of maths, at least of mathematical talent – which I have never even been close to –, and how I could promote the talent development activity of others and the relevant development of talented children in this field through my own pedagogical understanding. I was interested in the special maths faculty of Fazekas Grammar School in particular and the first class of this kind also for other reasons. On the one hand, contrary to others, I have never considered this school a “racing stable”, but a pedagogical workshop of very high quality also in international comparison. I was interested in how that related to the maths faculty, how a talent class of this kind contributed to the school being such an excellent institution. On the other hand, “spec. maths” is a typical example of co-educating gifted children – the subject matter of so many domestic and international supportive, and at least as many critical, analyses and opinions. I was interested in what the stakeholders, the talented children themselves, would say about this if asked directly. Finally, in the context of my research, I interviewed the talented adults these talented children became, due to my special interest in the very first Hungarian/Fazekas class of this kind. This has had two reasons. One was my knowledge that at least a dozen outstanding mathematicians, members of the academicians, international prize winners, creators of internationally recognized and used mathematical theorems, and even outstanding members of the mathematical talent support staff of the past 50 years, started their careers there. The other reason why I started to research the talent issues of this class exactly 50 years after their GCSE was that I wondered how a special class of maths talents could be started in the middle of socialism, the Kádár regime – whereas, at least apparently, at a first glance, this diametrically opposed to the prevailing egalitarian society-building philosophy governed by the principle of equality. This was my key interest in my capacity of researcher and, obviously, I had to focus on the very first class to understand this issue. Furthermore, the special maths faculty became one of the most successful forms of Hungarian talent support, rolled out as early as the school year following 1962 in several Budapest and, later on, a dozen of Hungarian schools, active to this day and raising one generation after the other of mathematically talented young Hungarians. So, I was genuinely interested in the beginning of the story, the very first such class. All things considered, however, I was most interested in what the class was like from the inside: how it worked in the (talent) pedagogical sense, what typical social relations and what values prevailed there and how the best in mathematics and the others related to each other – during my research interviews, I asked the members of the first spec. maths Fazekas class, almost 70 years old at the time, to recall these aspects in the first place.

I have hardly conducted any similar research and the same is true of others, internationally: the English-language literature refers to the description of no more than one or two similar Chinese researches where talent support program participants were interviewed about their talent co-education experience in retrospect, 2-3 decades later.

I myself came to two conclusions as a result of the research.

One is that the co-education of talents is not only positive, but also inevitable for optimum development. To use a simple and not even academic simile: who would assume the optimum form of the development of Formula-1 drivers would be to make them practice with the “laymen” most of us are at an early age? Or that the best way for Pavarotti to develop his singing skills would have been to have no similar talents around him? To have no talent workshops? This, however, does not mean that the co-education of talents is equally important and good in every domain, at every age, for each and every child. I have also interviewed former students who quit this spec. maths (“supermaths”) class during the program about their experience. As could be expected, it was not positive and, naturally, this aspect requires as much pedagogical attention as the pedagogy of those for whom co-education with talented students is the most developing, most stimulating medium.

Another, not independent, finding is that it is pedagogically incorrect to create such a co-education environment without having an adequate system of consultants and/or psychologist or at least special assistant teachers in the background. This is a rather challenging situation for excellent or good students and teachers alike, where it is better if the stakeholders can always rely on a professional backup team to provide expert assistance if need be.

Yet another thing I understood thanks to this research is that such highly intensive co-education situations will only have a positive effect also in the long run if the exceptionally talented and the less outstanding, but high-performer children find the forms of cooperation, with the help of their teachers, where they can mutually strengthen and acknowledge each other. In addition to many other conditions, this requires that the highly talented, yet not excellent students feel that the community concerned develops and strengthens them to the maximum extent possible, and it is the best stimulating/developing growth environment for them. It is incredibly hard to create an environment where the highly talented, but not excellent, students can be present and can develop like that – but the nationally outstanding academic staff of the first spec. maths class accomplished this task, thanks in the first place to their history/geography teacher form master, Gyula Komlós.

Other main findings of the research could be listed endlessly, but suffice it to mention one more here: I became convinced that, for certain talented children, in certain fields of knowledge (and maths is obviously one of these), co-educating talents after establishing certain pedagogical circumstances is a most efficient form of talent support. These talent-nurturing forms, however, must be renewed again and again, as the world, the fields of knowledge, the societies and the absorbing markets as well as the circumstances keep changing. It is beyond the scope of my research to compare this form of talent support and the current opportunities, demands and needs, but my impression is that special maths education would require some creative and innovative upgrading to have another equally successful 50 years in Hungary and globally.

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

TMNP (India) 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.



EGIFT SUMMER SCHOOL 2018 successfully concluded. Altogether 49 participants, mostly experienced professionals in GE from 8 EU countries, spent a week together sharing and discussing their educational practices with gifted students. The focus of the event was to deepen and expand the knowledge on why and how to optimize approaches for cultivation of young people talents (Centre for Research and Promotion of Giftedness at Faculty of Education, University of Ljubljana). You might add also pictures attached.

Tribal Mensa Nurturing Program – Annual Report 2017-2018

Sixteen years ago, we started with a MISSION to identify, nurture and empower every gifted child in India for nation-building. In year 2017-2018, we challenged ourselves to find these hidden gems from the most deprived socio-economic sections. We found gifted students amongst those who have been abandoned by society as they are children of commercial sex workers and affected by HIV AIDS. We have also shifted our focus towards nurturing and empowering gifted girls through our VAMA program. As India has a Matru-Pradhan culture, we believe that a girl should be empowered first to strengthen her community.

Read more about the Tribal Mensa Programs here.