Systemic solutions in gifted education

Michael Piechowski an American molecular biologist, counseling psychologist and a talent expert of Polish origin had a very interesting talk about the holistic, personality-centered way of talent development, focusing on the personal growth of the gifted, stressing that promotion of gifted children should not concentrate merely on the specific domain in which the child has above-the-average capabilities, as a large number of gifted children need professional support in areas where they perform less perfectly. Professor Piechowski offered various arguments against the widely endorsed practice of indentifying the gifted on the basis of visible achievements, warning that exceptionally gifted children do not always excell in their achievements at a young age. That is achievement-based identifications may promote high achievers even when they are not exceptionally gifted and leave highly gifted unsupported if they are not high achievers at the same time. Wieslawa Limont (Poland) presented a thorough outline of education of gifted students in Poland, and introduced some good examples of talent support. Maria Ledzinska (Poland) spoke about how understanding gifted students can be interpreted as the fundament of teachers’ work, and emphasized the need to broaden the perspective of talent support to look at gifted students as developing individuals. Csilla Fuszek (Hungary), the director of the European Talent Centre, Budapest had a presentation about building cooperation networks in Europe with particular emphasis on systemic solutions in the education of gifted students, in which she introduced the goals and the latest results of the recently founded European Talent Centre and outlined some future goals and ways for networking in Europe.   Her presentation included an overview of the development of the Hungarian network of TalentPoints as a good example of nationwide networking and a possible best practice to be adopted also as a European Union model. In Varsaw Ms. Fuszek announced that in accordance with the final document of the Budapest conference on Talent Support, 2011, some members of the European Parliament have found it important and timely to draw the attention of the member states to the importance of talent support with regard to the Strategy 2020 of the European Union.  Thus, on the initiative of Hungarian MP Ms Kinga Gál, a Written Declaration on Talent Support will be put forward in the European Parliament on 19 November, 2012. This Written Declaration will be endorsed by the Parliament, if more than 50% of MPs sign it within the coming three months. The first three MPs who joined the initiatives are Mojca Kleva of Slovenia, Barbara Lochbihler of Germany and Hannu Takkula of Finnland. Csilla Fuszek has asked participants present from EU member states to approach their MPs, inform them on the importance of this initiative and ask them to sign the written declaration. A European Union level document on talent support was last issued in 1994, now we have the opprtutity to draw the attention of the governments of the member states and the citizens of the EU to the vital importance of building a talent friendly Europe  Ms Fuszek said.

In addition to the plenary sessions 5 parallel panel discussions were held two times, moderated by Beata Dyrda (Poland), Leo Pahkin (Finland), Ludmila Popova (Russia), Margaret Sutherland (Scotland), Sieglinde Weyringer (Austria) on the first day, and by Lianne Hoogeveen (the Netherlands), Christian Fischer (Germany), Eva Vondrakova (Czech Republic), Oleksandr Burov (Ukraine) and Franz Mönks (the Netherlands) on the second day. In these sessions participants had the chance to initiate discussions and share knowledge about the present situation of systemic strategies and support facilities, based on their own experiences.
As the conference put a special emphasis on practical implementations, a plenary session was devoted to good international practices, where nine countries (Scotland, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Finland, Ukraine, Russia, Czech Republic, Poland) introduced their main accomplishments in gifted education and some selected examples of talent support. Polish good practices were also presented in a section, where participants got a short insight to several excellent projects and institutional efforts of the hosting country.

Most participating countries have already introduced some good  examples of gifted education, however these initiatives do dot 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.  

The Varsaw international conference was followed up by the Workshop of Central and Eastern European talent support professionals organized by the European Talent Center - Budapest between 24-25 October, 2012 in Szeged, Hungary. A summary of this meeting will be published soon.

Talent is a special kind of natural resource that is available in every country.