Working Towards Stronger European Collaboration in Gifted Education

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This post reviews recent progress towards pan-European collaboration in gifted education via the emerging European Talent Network and the establishment of a European Talent Centre in Budapest, Hungary.

EU talent centre Capture

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It continues a narrative thread that has permeated this Blog since its earliest days. Following a brief review of the history of this initiative, the post examines:

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  • Recent EU lobbying activity;
  • The 2012 Conference in Warsaw, Poland;
  • The European Talent Centre, its activities and website; and
  • The evolving relationship with the European Council for High Ability (ECHA).

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The History

In June 2010 I wrote about Hungary’s Plans to Strengthen G&T Education across the EU.

Those plans were fourfold:

  • An international conference on talent development and its contribution to EU competitiveness scheduled for April 2011 in Budapest.
  • A series of annual national Talent Days, unified into a single pan-EU Talent Day by 2014.
  • Inclusion of talent support references in key EU policies and documents, including the EU Education and Training Strategy 2012-2014 and a non-legislative act (NLA) on talent support.

In April 2011 I published a two-part blog post about the Conference and inaugural EU Talent Day which had just taken place as planned in Budapest.

Part One reported the conference proceedings. Part Two reflected on the Declaration generated at the Conference and on whether the Hungarian talent support model was scalable to Europe.

The Declaration proposed that:

  • National representatives should seek broad consensus around an inclusive talent development concept that incorporates a broad range of talents and people of all ages.
  • Talent development benefits individuals and society, countries and the EU as a whole, contributing to EU strategic goals for innovation and sustainable growth. It is a shared responsibility of governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), businesses and local communities.
  • Talent support can strengthen social cohesion and social mobility. Programmes should balance excellence for all and support for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
  • The Hungarian talent support movement may provide the basis of an EU-wide network. The EU is called upon to make the annual day of talent an official ‘European Day of the Talented and Gifted’.
  • Talent support should be reflected in key European Commission, Council and Parliament documentation. There should be joint effort to ensure it receives due attention in all member states. A Budapest-based Talent Resource and Support Centre might co-ordinate and monitor progress.
  • Stakeholders would convene annually to discuss talent support issues, starting in Warsaw, Poland in 2012 (Poland had the EU Presidency following Hungary.).

The post raised some difficult questions about the sources of long-term funding to realise an EU-wide model on the Hungarian pattern. I expressed reservations about a Budapest centre:

‘I am not yet convinced that the idea of establishing a European Centre in Budapest is necessary, or entirely in keeping with a distributed pan-EU network. Ideally, such a network should be capable of thriving with the smallest possible central hub which exists almost entirely online. The notion of a Centre smacks somewhat of the centralised top-down solutions that the network is intended to render unnecessary. It is not clear what responsibilities it would undertake and how it would add value to the overall endeavour. It could very easily become a ‘white elephant’.’

I also drew attention to potential difficulties in the relationship with the European Council for High Ability (ECHA):

‘The Hungarians seem to have gone out of their way to court ECHA to date, but their aspiration for a pan-European network rather calls into question ECHA’s raison d’etre. Put bluntly, if ECHA had succeeded in achieving its objectives, the current Hungarian initiative would not be necessary. Similarly, if the Hungarian initiative succeeds, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that ECHA would be redundant. This issue needs to be addressed head-on from the outset, not swept under the carpet.’

Finally, I argued that other nationalities should be actively engaged in the early planning process via the proposed OMC Expert Group.

So much for the history up to April 2011, but what has happened (and what has not happened) in the 19 months between then and now?

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EU Lobbying Activity

Immediately after the Conference, Peter Csermely circulated an outline Draft Resolution of the European Parliament on Talent Development.

My comments included a reminder that the text should reflect the original commitments to a Non-Legislative Act (NLA) and an Expert Group.

By September there was a revised text incorporating an outline 2011 NLA and an outline resolution. Several MEPs were reporting to be planning to submit the latter during Autumn 2011.

The draft proposed that:

‘A Europe-wide talent support network should be formed and supported with an on-line and physical presence to support information-sharing, partnership and collaborations. This network should be open for co-operation with all European talent support efforts, use the expertise and networking experiences of existing multinational bodies such as the European Council of High Ability and support both national and multinational efforts to help talents not duplicating existing efforts but providing an added European value.’

Apropos the proposed Centre it said:

‘To support the networking activities as a hub of the EU-wide network from 2012 a European Talent Support Centre should be established. The European Parliament accepts the offer of the Hungarian Government to host such a Centre in Budapest. The European Talent Support Centre should have an Advisory Board having the representatives of interested EU member states, all-European talent support-related institutions as well as key figures of European talent support. Using the minimum bureaucracy and maximising its use of online solutions the European Talent Support Centre should:

  • facilitate the development and dissemination of best curricular and extra-curricular talent support practices;
  • coordinate the trans-national cooperation of Talent Points forming an EU Talent Point network;
  • help  the spread of the know-how of successful organization of Talent Days;
  • organize  annual EU talent support conferences in different EU member states overseeing the progress of cooperation in European talent support;
  • provide a continuously updated easy Internet access for all the above information.’

It is noteworthy that the proposed Expert Group has now become an Advisory Group for the Centre, and that the Centre will be responsible for organising the annual conferences.

But, by January 2012, this document had morphed into a draft Written Declaration on the Support of Talents in the European Union which calls on:

  • Member States to consider measures helping curricular and extracurricular forms of talent support including the training of educational professionals to recognize and help talent;
  • The Commission to consider talent support as a priority of future European strategies, such as the European Research Area and the European Social Fund;
  • Member States and the Commission to support the development of a Europe-wide talent support network, formed by talent support communities, Talent Points and European Talent Centres facilitating cooperation, development and dissemination of best talent support practices;
  • Member States and the Commission to celebrate the European Day of the Talented and Gifted.

And which: ‘instructs its President to forward this declaration, together with the names of the signatories, to the Council, the Commission and the Governments of the Member States’

Note the reference to ‘European talent centres’ in the plural. All references to the Budapest Centre and a group – whether advisory or expert – have been dropped.

This may have been because of funding difficulties over the Centre and its activities, or it may have been impossible to include these details given the restriction on the length of Written Declarations to 200 words.

Alternatively, these references may have been removed to ensure that MEPs weren’t dissuaded from supporting the declaration on grounds of bureaucracy (the group) or advantage to one member state (the Centre).

Conceivably, all three reasons may have been in play.

It is not clear why the Final Written Declaration was not submitted until 19 November 2012, some ten months after the initial draft had been circulated.

On this date it was presented by four MEPs:

The wording is only very slightly different.

The first point is unchanged.

The second calls on:

‘The Commission to consider talent support as part of ‘non-formal learning’ and a priority in future European strategies, such as the strategies guiding the European Research Area and the European Social Fund.’

The third has been very slightly altered, calling on:

‘Member States and the Commission to support the development of a Europewide talent support network bringing together talent support communities, Talent Points and European Talent Centres in order to facilitate cooperation and the development and dissemination of the best talent support practices’

The fourth has lost its ‘gifted and talented’ terminology – presumably because that might also alienate some potential signatories – calling instead on

‘Member States and the Commission to celebrate the European Day of Highly Able People’

The final instruction is unchanged.

The purpose of such Written Declarations is to stimulate a debate on any issue within the EU’s remit. Declarations are submitted by a group of up to five MEPs, printed in all the official languages and entered into a register.

Those that are signed by a majority of MEPs are announced by the President in a plenary session of the European Parliament and forwarded for consideration to the institutions named in the text. Declarations lapse if they have not been signed by a majority of MEPs within three months of their entry into the register.

The register of written declarations is available online. At the time of writing it shows that 84 MEPs had signed by 22 November, still a long way short of the requisite number (there are 753 MEPs in total). The lapse date is 19 February 2013.

Peter Csermely has used Facebook to encourage the gifted education community to lobby their MEPs and I have also used Twitter for the same purpose.

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EU lobbying poster Capture

There is even a poster to promote the Declaration..

The impact of this activity – whether or not the Declaration is endorsed by the majority of MEPs – remains to be seen.

It is not clear why the Declaration procedure has been adopted over the original plan for a Non-Legislative Act, but presumably the advice of EU constitutional experts has been sought and heeded.

It may, at best, provide a platform on which to build further lobbying activity. It seems unlikely that it will lead to anything more tangible in the short-to-medium term.

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The Polish Conference

 

Organisation and Planning

 It is with some trepidation that I turn to the Warsaw Conference, for I understand the difficulties involved in organising a successful event of this kind.

There are always problems and inevitably compromises have to be made. Those with an interest in attending are willing to forgive much, as long as it’s clear that the organisers have tried their best and they are kept informed. But in this case there is some cause to question whether those two criteria were satisfied.

I first enquired about the Conference in January and, despite pursuing the matter throughout the intervening period,  did not manage to obtain an invitation until 11 October, exactly eight days before the event, when it was already too late to shift my prior commitments.

Rather than clog up the post with the sorry details, I have appended them as a separate page. Readers of a nervous disposition may prefer to avoid this full chronology.

Such shortcomings are particularly unfortunate (and ironic) given that the very purpose of the EU Talent initiative is to support networking between countries, linking partners together and so enabling them to interact for mutual benefit.

It is noteworthy that – according to the September drafts at least – the European Talent Centre plans to take control of this task in future, presumably regardless of the conference location. That is potentially problematic however and may not be possible to achieve in practice, other than through some kind of sub-contracting arrangement.

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Proceedings

The linked chronology records my efforts to persuade the Conference organisers and participants to share real-time information about the proceedings. That did not happen. Given the limited information in the public domain, I published the Programme I received with my belated invitation and shared it via Twitter.

The programme carries the logo of the European Social Fund, implying that funding from that source was used to defray at least part of the cost. This is confirmed by the legend on some of the presentations subsequently forwarded to me:

‘Conference co-financed by the European Union within the European Social Fund’.

Some of these papers also bear the Conference byline:

‘Systemic strategies in teaching gifted students – a way to the future of education’.

That then is the declared theme, but to what extent did the proceedings stick to this agenda?

There was a significant Polish input.

Keynotes were given by: Michael Piechowski, an expatriate psychologist long resident in the USA; Wieslawa Limont, a Polish psychologist; Maria Ledzinska, a third Polish psychologist; and Csilla Fuszek, Hungarian Director of the Budapest Talent Centre.

Given the provenance of the Conference, Csilla Fuszek’s presentation was essential and important. She focused on the core topic, speaking about ‘Building a cooperation network in Europe regarding systemic solutions in the education of gifted students’. I will return to the content of her presentation below.

I am not sure the same could be said of the triumvirate of Polish professors:

  • Piechowski discussed ‘Talent Development and Personal Growth’. His presentation is foregrounded in contemporary US debate about whether talent development or personal growth should be paramount in gifted education, with Piechowski firmly in the second camp.
  • Limont covered the ‘Education of Gifted Students in Poland – selected examples’, basically providing a description of the current state of Polish gifted education. This input would have fitted better in the plenary session on ‘presentation of good practices in selected countries’ on day two (see below).
  • Ledzinska spoke about ‘Understanding Gifted Students as the Fundament [sic] of Teachers’ Work’. This seems to have been a plea for educators to review their unsubstantiated and inaccurate beliefs about gifted learners.

But much of the time was dedicated to panel discussions with overlapping themes. The first tranche included:

  • The newest conceptions of giftedness and their verification in research (Beate Dyrda, a Polish lecturer who specialises in the pedagogy of gifted education and the ‘psychopedagogy of creativity’).
  • Education policy in different European countries – model solutions for the legislation, organisation, funding and education of gifted students (Leo Pakhin, project manager of a gifted and talented project employed by the Finnish National Board of Education).
  • How to systematically support the development of various talents? – exchange of experience and good practice (Ludmila Popova, a Russian professor of psychology).
  • Strategies to assist schools and teachers in gifted education (Margaret Sutherland, lecturer at the University of Glasgow and Director of the Scottish Network for Able Pupils).
  • Organisation of gifted education – examples of effective solutions from selected countries (Seiglinde Weyringer, a lecturer from the University of Salzburg in Austria).

The five panel sessions on the second day were:

  • Systemic solutions in the organisation of gifted education – development of skills and talents (Lianne Hoogeveen, a psychologist from the Centre for the Study of Giftedness (CBO) at the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands).
  • Determinants of the process of gifted education in the context of systemic solutions (Christian Fischer from the University of Munster, Germany).
  • Possible solutions for the future – perspectives of gifted education in 2012-2030 (Eva Vondrakova, another psychologist, from the Czech Republic);
  • Examples of good practices in gifted education – selected aspects (Oleksandr Burov, Deputy Director of Institute for Gifted Child in Ukraine)and
  • Creating co-operation networks in Europe to improve the quality of gifted education (Franz Monks, also from the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands).

The Poles forwarded me a copy of a paper presented by Monks, presumably during this latter session. I have no hesitation in sharing it because a substantial proportion is my own drafting, dating from 2007 or thereabouts (though there is no attribution), at the time of the last ill-fated effort to secure European collaboration. I recorded these events at the beginning of my June 2010 post.

There is otherwise no substantive record yet available of these discussions, which formed the core of the Conference proceedings. One hopes that this is soon rectified and that they are of some benefit to the wider initiative.

What must have been a stamina-sapping two-hour slot was set aside for eight successive ‘presentations of good practice from selected countries’, featuring each of the moderators (excepting Monks and Dyrda, the latter being replaced by Kosiarek from ORE, the Conference organisers).

Contrary to the billing in the Programme, Margaret Sutherland spoke only about Scotland, not the UK as a whole. The organisers were aware that this would be the case but failed to change the agenda.

I wouldn’t wish to belittle Scotland’s significance, but the fact is that it is home to perhaps five million of the UK’s population of around 60 million people, England being some ten times larger. It is always a mistake to omit Scotland from the UK, but it is a much bigger mistake, quantitatively speaking, to omit England, let alone Wales and Northern Ireland.

Fischer’s address on Germany seems to have been supported by a document about self-regulated learning strategies. Hoogeveen’s paper is a concise summary of provision in the Netherlands. Despite requests and commitments from ORE, I have not received the other presentations or associated materials.

The details so far published are confined to this in English on the European Talent Centre site and this in Polish on ORE’s site. The Polish version promises the uploading of conference proceedings shortly here. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for them to appear.

In the meantime, the published summaries tell us very little of significance, though the photographs attached to the Polish report give an insight into the nature of the proceedings  that is perhaps more eloquent than mere words.

The Hungarian summary comments:

‘Most participating countries have already introduced some good  examples of gifted education, however these initiatives do dot [sic] constitute a nationwide network, do not form an integrated system at the national level – explained Teresa Kosiarek who was responsible for the organization of the conference at ORE. This was the reason why they have chosen systemic solutions in gifted education as the main topic of the conference.’

It is disappointing that England, the sixth largest country by population in Europe (when the populations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are discounted) with its rich recent history of gifted education, including a national programme serving around one million learners, was left entirely out of consideration.

One is left wondering just how the moderators for the event were selected – and by whom. (Here you may detect a hint of sour grapes for which I apologise.) Apart from the preponderance of academic psychologists, what do they have in common? Why did this prospective moderator not qualify for consideration?

Perhaps it is significant that the vast majority are active ECHA members while I am not. I flatter myself that the criterion could not have been personal commitment to the wider EU Talent initiative…but probably we will never know. And, anyway, as I remarked to the organisers ‘there’s no use crying over spilt milk’…

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The EuropeanTalent Centre in Budapest 

While the Poles were struggling to set up their Conference, progress towards the establishment of the Budapest Talent Centre was also proving somewhat slow and difficult.

Communications in January suggested that the Centre would be launched the following month with Csilla Fuszek installed as Director.

By February the Ministry of Education had given its approval in principle to these arrangements and even assigned a budget for the year ahead, but no money had changed hands. The opening was delayed until the end of May.

A plan to write to a range of stakeholders across Europe to request their support was put on ice. When no funding had been received by mid-April, opening was again put back, this time until the end of June. Meanwhile a skeleton staff developed the project in anticipation of future remuneration.

Money was finally paid at the start of July permitting the Centre to begin work in earnest. However, the website carries a prominent statement that:

The operation of the European Talent Centre — Budapest is supported from 1 July 2012 through 30 November 2012 by the grant of the National Talent Fund. The grant is realised under Grant Scheme No. NTP-EU-M-12 announced by the Hungarian Institute for Educational Research and Development and the SándorWekerle Fund Manager of the Ministry of Administration and Justice on commission of the Ministry of Human Resources, from the Training Fund Segment of the Labour Market Fund.’

A 30 September press release confirms that the sum payable for this period is HUF 30 million (almost £87,000). The bulk of this has presumably been used to pay the staff of nine.

It is not stated whether resources are forthcoming for the period after 30 November, though this may feature in an imminent press release about the Centre’s achievements over its first six months. One suspects that donations from sponsors will be necessary for it to continue in business much beyond mid-2013.

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The Centre’s Activities

Back in July, expectations for 2012 were scaled back to collecting ideas and expressions of support while also launching the website.

The site describes the Centre’s mission thus:

‘The long-term objective of European Talent Centre – Budapest established in Summer 2012 is to contribute – based on the success of the Hungarian co-operation model – to organising the European organisations and professionals proclaiming the above values into an open, flexible network overarching the countries of Europe. Its mission is to offer organisations and individuals, active so far in an isolated, latent or maybe already in a network-based form or framework structure, an opportunity to work together to achieve the following:

  • to provide talent support an emphasis commensurate with its importance in every European country
  • to reduce talent loss to the minimum in Europe,
  • to give talent support a priority role in the transformation of the sector of education; to provide talented youngsters access to the most adequate forms of education in every Member State,
  • to make Europe attractive for the talented youth,
  • to create talent-friendly societies in every European country’.

The threefold goal of the Centre is:

  • ‘to accelerate the sharing of information on the topic,
  • to create a higher number of more efficient forms of talent support for the talented,
  • to make it easier for social actors interested in talent support to find each other through the European talent support network.’

Fuszek’s presentation to the Polish conference puts a little more flesh on these bones, noting that the Centre will:

  • Form the hub of a European network that will ‘trigger mechanisms which bring organisations and individuals together to facilitate collaboration, share best practices and resources’. The ambition is that ‘over time’ this and other centres will be ‘directly sponsored by the EU’.
  • Develop an online ‘Talent Map of Europe’. This will incorporate existing networks, organisations and institutions focused mainly on talent support, (including schools, universities and research centres), NGOs, policy makers, businesses with talent management programmes and organisations for parents of gifted children.
  • Share best practice, including through the imminent publication of International Horizons in Talent Development Volume 2 (which was due on 28 November). This is said to include coverage of USA, Saudi Arabia, Finland, and Israel. There will be a separate publication covering the Carpathian Basin countries of Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia.
  • Lobby the European Parliament via the Written Declaration.

There is reference to use of social media but it is not quite clear what is intended:

‘will have a webpage so via social media will help to turn tacit networks into explicit networks…’

The Talent Map is clearly the top priority. There is no reference to annual conferences or even Talent Days.

The website  carries an interview with Fuszek in which she mentions plans to ‘set up a team of voluntary experts from all over Europe who wish to actively contribute to the development of the European talent network and help draw the European talent map’.

It appears that the Expert Group cum Advisory Group now has a third incarnation.

The news items on the website include a feature on a regional meeting, held shortly after the Polish Conference, with representatives from Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovenia (the Poles were invited but could not attend). Very helpfully – and as if to point up the contrast with the Polish event – all the presentations given at the event are attached.

One sets out an idea from Austria for a ‘European knowledge map’ for gifted and talented education which bears a strong resemblance to the observatory I have proposed regularly on this blog, most recently in this post on the contribution of social media to gifted education. It is not clear whether this idea can or will be brought within scope of the Talent Centre initiative.

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The Website

The website went live in September as planned, around the time of the ECHA Conference. I offered feedback as requested:

‘…You have a lot of written information in several different places. It would be a good idea to edit some of the text so there is less to read on the web pages, with detailed documents linked as PDF attachments. Some of the English could also be simplified so it has more immediate impact.

The site is also hard to navigate because there are three different sets of menus – two are available from the home page and two from the content pages, one being common to both. I think you may need to simplify the structure a bit, so it’s not so easy to get lost

…I would personally prefer the website to serve as a hub that supports interaction between different bodies and individuals featured on the map – so people can actively discuss partnership and collaboration in the same space, rather than moving elsewhere to do that.

That means the site is more like a virtual agency where prospective partners can meet and explore possible relationships, either openly or in private discussions as they prefer’.

Little has changed since I made these statements. The homepage carries a scrolling set of links to five pages on the site and four brief news items beneath. Clicking on ‘sitemap’ takes one to the homepage.

The main pages are selected from a horizontal menu with six options. Most of these include an additional vertical menu and also a series of links to the same set of ‘news and events’ (so the latter form the right-hand column on the majority of pages).

The Talent Map includes only a handful of links, none in the UK.

The page of useful links is extensive but basically just a very long list, hard to navigate and not very user-friendly. Conversely, ‘best practices’ contains only three resources, all of them produced in house.

The whole design is rather complex and cluttered, several of the pages are too text-heavy and occasionally the English leaves something to be desired.

I’ve made no secret of my conviction that the Talent Centre should embrace social media, developing a website built on social media principles, by which I mean that it should serve as an online hub rather than a central repository, and actively support multimedia online interaction rather than providing a more traditional ‘information store’. The current version is some way from that vision.

I’ve also offered feedback on an ‘EU Talent Points Plan’, a copy of which was circulated at the ECHA Conference. This:

  • Urged a more flexible, inclusive approach to the selection of points on the talent map.
  • Suggested an online consultation seeking views from stakeholders about what they want from the map and how they think it should be developed.
  • Proposed ‘an Amazon-style rating scale’ enabling users to publish reviews of the services they have experienced.

It would be helpful if the Centre could publish a synthesis of the ideas and suggestions it has received, as well as a statement of how it proposes to develop the map and the timescale for that. If it is to rely on an international team of volunteers they will need to be recruited rather urgently.

Because of its function, it is imperative that the Centre is as open and transparent as possible over such matters, otherwise it risks being viewed with a degree of suspicion by some potential allies.

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The Relationship with ECHA

A major risk associated with the EU Talent initiative is the potential for conflict with ECHA. As I have said before, if ECHA had been effective there would have been no need to establish a parallel network.

There is therefore an implicit criticism of ECHA’s performance, especially since the network is being set up as a separate entity rather than within ECHA.

So from ECHA’s point of view, it would be all too easy to regard the EU Talent project as a deliberate effort to undermine it, even to supplant it. This helps to explain the intensive courting of ECHA by the Hungarian team during the development phase.

Future progress will have been smoothed by the choice by ECHA members of Peter Csermely as their new President, an event reported on the Talent Centre’s website in suitably diplomatic terms (the emphasis is mine):

‘According to Prof Péter Csermely, newly elected president of ECHA, the Budapest Centre will play a supportive role in ECHA’s network-building efforts by creating a Talent Map of European talent support institutions and best practices. The idea of sharing experiences and networking was welcomed by numerous members of ECHA at the Münster conference.’

One can reasonably predict that the two organisations will draw more closely together following Peter Csermely’s election. It seems doubtful that ECHA will swallow the EU Talent Centre, though there is a possibility that the reverse could happen. Some sort of merger or federation may be on the cards, especially if both entities are short of cash.

Economies of scale and greater efficiency could be realised through merger, though it is open to question whether the politics would permit even that relationship, despite the fact that Csermely, the master diplomat, sits at the head of both organisations.

In the short term, the new ECHA Executive is focused on improving ECHA’s own infrastructure, with plans to reform its rather clunky website by early 2013.

In an equally refreshing move, the Slovenian organisers of the ECHA 2014 conference have selected ‘giftedness in a digital age’ as their theme and have established an open forum to gather ideas about the content and organisation of the event.

I am grateful that they have read my post about the 2012 Conference and expressed their willingness to receive further ideas from this quarter. What a contrast between Slovenia and Poland!

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An Overall Verdict on Progress to Date

After a slow start, the Budapest Centre has made some significant progress, particularly over the past four months. The Polish conference will have caused some reputational damage but, in the grand scheme of things, should have only a marginal impact on the wider initiative.

It remains to be seen whether there will be a 2013 Conference, as envisaged in the 2011 Declaration and, if so, where it will be held. (The 2013 EU Presidency falls first to Ireland and then to Lithuania.) A decision soon on the timing – as well as the location – is devoutly to be wished for.

Despite the progress in Budapest, there are several warning signs which cannot be ignored:

  • Given the size of the staff, the overall level of activity seems relatively low when judged in terms of the quality and quantity of published material;
  • So it seems probable that much of this human resource is disproportionately allocated to relatively marginal but labour-intensive activity, such as the promised publication of a second volume of International Horizons of Talent Support, a review of gifted education activity elsewhere in the world. (Even though I say so myself, there are others in that territory providing a more flexible service entirely free of charge!)
  • The website needs fairly urgent attention if it is to adopt a design and approach consistent with the networking principles upon which the initiative as a whole is based. The talent map is still embryonic, though it was launched well over two months ago now.
  • As far as I can tell, nothing has been done to establish the International Expert/Advisory Group which formed part of the original vision. This seems essential to wider international ownership of the initiative. It would be unfortunate in my view if the group was limited to populating the talent map.
  • There are unexplained omissions and delays. There was no EU Talent Day in 2012, despite initial rumours that it would be celebrated during the ECHA Conference in September. The website mentions plans for an event on 28 November marking the first six months of the Centre’s activities and publication of International Horizons Volume Two. But at the time of writing, there is still no report on proceedings and the new volume has yet to be uploaded.
  • The future funding of the Centre seems relatively precarious and unclear. The website is explicit that initial support from the National Talent Fund runs out on 30 November. Some sources suggest there may be money available to support the Centre’s activities for a further six to nine months, but longer term support will almost certainly depend on sponsorship. Sponsors may well want some influence over the direction of the project and its priorities. It will be telling (and rather worrying) if the press release marking the first six months of activity – when it is eventually published – makes no reference to future funding arrangements.

It remains to be seen whether the EU lobbying effort will bear fruit. It may set back progress if too few MEPs are willing to sign the EU Declaration. Even if the Declaration is supported, it is not entirely clear what benefits this will bring.

And overall I remain concerned at the Budapest-centric nature of the operation. There is no published plan for how the current model will shift to a more distributed approach where responsibility and control is shared across Europe. As I have several times suggested, an EU funding bid under the Lifelong Learning Programme would provide the wherewithal to begin that process.

The next twelve months will be critical, almost certainly determining whether or not this laudable initiative is destined to succeed. We will return to the subject this time next year to find out whether the EU Talent project is a resounding success or a glorious failure.

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GP

November 2012

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