ECHA is a membership body – full annual membership currently costs 60 Euros. The website describes it as a communications network that promotes:
‘the exchange of information among people interested in high ability – educators, researchers, psychologists, parents and the highly able themselves’.
ECHA does seem more inclusive than some of the other organisations we have explored, but academic researchers remain in the ascendant.
It is governed by a Committee comprising the President (currently from Finland) and six other members (currently drawn from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Russia and the UK). This composition will change after the Paris conference (see below). There is also a network of national correspondents who are encouraged to keep the organisation up to date about developments in member – and non-member – countries.
Other aims cited include:
- publication of information and books
- support for Special Interest Groups
- support for international research and
- co-operation with other relevant national and international organisations
But there is relatively little evidence of vigorous activity in these fields.
ECHA is perhaps better known for its 2-year Advanced Diploma in the Education of the Highly Able, though it is unclear how much responsibility is vested in the parent organisation relative to the universities that teach the Diploma.
The aims and content are outlined here here. Although the Diploma includes an internship, it remains largely theoretical and this attracts some criticism. The total cost is currently 6000 Euros.
A network for Diploma holders was introduced in 2008 though it seems to exist only in Germany and the Netherlands. The Dutch section of the network has its own website.
ECHA publishes a biannual newsletter ‘ECHA News’ and a biannual journal ‘High Ability Studies’. The editor of the journal is also the Vice-President of the IRATDE.
But ECHA is perhaps best known for its biennial conferences (organised for it by the selected host countries). The July 2010 conference – the 12th – is taking place in Paris, France. Previous conferences have been in Prague (2008), Lahti (2006) and Pamplona (2004). Zurich hosted the first conference in 1988.
ECHA has the potential to be a highly influential change agent within and beyond the EU, but is hamstrung by its limited budget and continues to punch beneath its weight. It needs to overhaul its income generation strategy and commission an independent review.