European Youth Summit, The Hague

A joint programme of the European Talent Support Network (ETSN) is the European Youth Summit, held in parallel with the ECHA conferences, preferably annually. The Summits have been taking place since 2016 and provide an opportunity for the youth to discuss their ideas on talent support or their own talent field, to build friendships around common interests and to learn about the cultural specificities of the host country/city.

After Vienna, Budapest, Dublin, Dubrovnik and Porto, the 6th meeting took place in The Hague in 2022. The Hague was in many ways interesting or even different from previous meetings. Compared to the previous ones, the youth programme met the ECHA conference programme in several areas. In addition to the plenary sessions, they had the opportunity to attend free-choice presentations based on their own interests, where they were introduced to the latest research related to talent support. This has never been done before. In addition, there was a number of programme elements dedicated specifically to them but, again, mostly 2-3 workshops or discussions ran in parallel. This made the days together unique for everyone. Of course, the young people attended the cultural and evening activities together.

In principle, the ETSN European Talent Centres and Talent Points could delegate students aged 14-30 to the Summit. However, for many years now, the age group most interested in the event and most likely to attend it has been students aged 16-22. In addition to an interest in the theme, an advanced knowledge of English, an interest in other cultures and networking, and openness are essential for participation. Normally, no more than 50 young people can attend the Summit’, which has been supported in recent years by ETSN’s Saudi Talent Centre, Mawhiba (King Abdulaziz and his Companions’ Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity), to ensure participation by as many students as possible. Nearly 30 students attended this year, the smaller headcount being due to uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Hungarian students were represented by a team of 5. We would like to share some of their impressions and valuable reflections on talent support, while their full reports are available on the EUTK website in English: Their reflections mirror the diversity, depth and sensitivity of their experiences:

„The topic I found most interesting was the education of so-called “twice exceptional” students. I have never heard about the correlation between exceptional ability and mental disorders (for example, the combination of high intelligence and autism) at such depth before. The pursuit of “ideal education” has determined my thinking and goals since high school, and I am particularly interested in the more specific areas of education, absolutely necessary to provide adequate education to all students. This is of course challenging, but the examples and success stories of twice-exceptional students that we heard in the lectures were absolutely motivating. If I am ever involved in improving education, I would love to throw myself into projects that have similar results.”

Pusztai Rebeka, university student, Budapest/Utrech, Hungary, Netherlands

 „Learners receive by and large the same quantity, but not the same quality, of education. Here quality is intended less in its traditional sense, and more as in caring for the needs of the learner. “Quality” here means “what is needed by the learner”: given the inherently different needs of learners, it is exceptionally difficult to provide equal quality in this sense. Certain steps such as reducing class size can help, but the problem is far from being solved.

Thirdly, the autonomy issue. Most students do not like to feel/be different from the others, especially if this it is due to adaptation to some special educational need. On the other hand, learners who are exceptional in one field may achieve better results due to the help of special educational methodology.”

Molnár Zalán secondary school student, Miskolc, Hungary

„My time spent at the conference was a series of deep learning experiences about diverse and motivating topics. I found the presentation about the Mully Children’s Family (MCF) the most impressive and fascinating keynote. MCF is a revolutionary organization in Kenya with programs to promote and nurture gifts and talents of children/youth in marginalized and poverty-stricken communities. I felt touched by this initiative, because providing quality education to all is a particularly important topic for me. This is the reason why I work for the international organization Athena on a program that provides free quality education globally, based on the same principles that MCF has. In Athena, students can participate in online courses and skill-enhancing programs. Unlike other international programs, we provide lessons and resources to the participants to master the subjects of humanities that are not covered in their curricula. Learning about MCF’s special methods was most instructive for me and it has contributed to the further development of Athena. I had the opportunity to personally meet Ndondo Mutua Mully, who has a key role in the organization, and to find out more about MCF and how I could contribute to this impressive initiative.”

Tóth Mira, secondary schhol student, Budapest, Hungary

„I had the best time of my life in The Hague during the ETSN Youth Summit organised as part of the 18th ECHA Conference. I had been preparing for this conference practically all summer, and I can say that the experience far exceeded all my expectations for sure!

I gained much knowledge about talents and abilities during the talks and presentations. The first keynote speech already contained plenty of new information; this was also the presentation that intrigued me the most out of the 15+ lectures/presentations/workshops/inspirational talks I attended during the conference. The speaker, Matt Zakreski, PhD, talked about the importance of failure. I can confidently claim that no lecture has ever captured my attention as much as this one. As a perfectionist fearing failure, I could completely identify with everything presented in the lecture; I felt as if every sentence would have been addressed personally to me. Perhaps the thought that stuck with me the most from this presentation was that “There are only three ways to Truly Fail: Never trying, Giving up and Not improving”.

Adorjáni Jonathán, secondary school student, Marosvásárhely, Romania

„Over all, many educational systems may need deep rooted structural renewal. Entering the conference I hoped I would get to know what tools there are that we can immediately give teachers and students to empower and motivate them. With all this in mind I was extremely happy to be notified that the ECHA international conference was opening its doors to who I like to call the primary consumers of education: the youth.  Similarly to us, many young learners around the world were granted the possibility of taking part in the conference. We had much fun together, actively engaging in afternoon group building activities and listening to presenters. I was very glad to see that there was a wide variety of countries taking part in the youth program. 

Similar diversity could be seen in the presenters at the conference. During the course of our three days in the Hague we attended numerous presentations, with presenters working in or researching education and learning. I believe everybodies palette was satisfied by the extensive range of topics being covered. My personal favorite presenters would have to be Prof. Niamh Stack, Dr Susan Baum, and Prof Frank C. Worrell.”

Emily Tacey, secondary school, Budapest, Hungary