Interview with Prof. Peter Csermely, President of ECHA, for the first Gifted Awareness Week in Germany



Peter Csermely

President, The European Council for High Ability (ECHA), Semmelweis University, Hungary

Peter Csermely (54) is a professor of the Semmelweis University (Budapest, Hungary). His major fields of study are networks, adaptation and aging (www.linkgroup.hu). In 1995 dr. Csermely launched a highly successful initiative, which provided research opportunities for more than 10,000 gifted high school students so far (www.nyex.info). In 2006 he established the Hungarian National Talent Support Council (www.tehetsegpont.hu) running a talent support network involving approx. 200,000 people. In 2012 he became the chair of the European Council of High Ability working for a Europe-wide network of talent support (www.talentcentrebudapest.eu). He wrote and edited 13 books (including the Weak Links at Springer) and published 220 research papers with a cumulative impact over 650 and total independent citations over 6,500. Dr. Csermely was the member of the Wise Persons’ Council of the Hungarian President, is a vice president of the Hungarian Biochemical Society, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Academia Europaea, Ashoka Fellow, was a Fogarty, a Howard Hughes and a Rockefeller Scholar, and received several other national and international honors and awards including the 2004 Descartes Award of the European Union.

Interview with Prof. Peter Csermely, President of ECHA

Dear Peter, Thank you for your time and your great support!

Kind regards,

Roya

1- The Global Center for Gifted and Talented Children is organising the first Gifted Awareness Week in Germany. Could you please tell us, as the president of the ECHA, about the importance of development of talent in Europe?

Europe is especially rich in various forms of talent support activities. This is a part of the cultural richness what is characteristic to Europe. This is an important additional and Europe-specific reason, why we should not think that talent is a treasure, which "comes as granted", and we do not have to do a lot to discover it, and develop it. The development o talent becomes especially crucial in changing times. In the 21st century our globe faces challenges, which were never here before. We need boldly novel ideas, we need an previously unprecedented level of creativity to solve them – and for this we need to discover and help much more talented young people in Europe.

 

2- Tell us about your research in Gifted Education, your blog and your experience in Gifted education please.

I graduated as a chemist, and I am a network scientist (www.linkgroup.hu/petercsermely.php), therefore my contribution of gifted education research is only very much indirect. I coined the concept of "creative nodes" describing a highly unique network position, which is typical to very creative persons of the society, but can also be found as a crucial mechanism of regulation of exploratory, adaptive behaviour at the level of single protein molecules, our cells, our brain, ecosystems, as well as our society. For two years I had a science-related blog (unfortunately only in Hungarian, www.csermelyblog.hu), which had more than a million clicks in this period. I am planning to re-launch it in English in the coming years. My first talent support activity was to establish an organization in Hungary for motivated high school students to involve them in top-level, "real" scientific research. In the last 17 years more than 12 thousand students participated in this movement which is run by the former students themselves since 2007. In 2006 I established the National Talent Support Council in Hungary, which is an umbrella NGO organization of all talent support NGO-s of the country. Since then almost a thousand Talent Points were formed in Hungary and in the neighbouring countries, we have close to a hundred local or thematic Talent Support Councils (of a county, of mathematics, of Roma people, of churches, etc.). The Hungarian Parliament adopted a 20-year Talent Support Program in 2006, and established a National Talent Fund, where people may send donations of 1% of their income tax. Last year 280 thousand people gave altogether 5 million EUR for this purpose. In the last two years alone more than 24 thousand young talents were discovered and helped, and the initiative broadened to a nation-wide movement involving approximately 200 thousand people (2% of the population of Hungary).

 

3- How can we meet the need of our talented children in our education system?

Talented children have various outstanding abilities. Some of them can fly as the eagle, others can sing as the robin and others are strong as the turkey. Many education systems prefer similarity. These schools aim to develop chickens, who can fly a little, can sing a little, and even have some muscles, too. These educational systems must recognize that eagles, robins and turkeys are not destroying school standards and morality, but should be loved at least as much as chickens, despite of their extended space-requirements, continuously disturbing auditory signals, or angry behaviour. Talented children are most often bored, and need excitement. We should not wait, until they find it in immoral activities. Faster speed of learning, enrichment programs, mentors, peer communities are all important parts of help. However, the most important is to listen to them and to give them an accepting, nurturing environment. Europe should become a talent friendly continent.

 

4- Could you please tell us about ECHA and your vision?

ECHA (www.echa.info) has the highest standards of talent support traditions of 25 years in Europe. This is a treasure, which we need to cherish. Its journal, given by its members free, the High Ability Studies, publishes top research papers on gifted education. ECHA Conferences (the next one in Ljubljana, in 2014; http://www.echa2014.info) bring together several hundreds of experts, practitioners, parents and talented young people from all around Europe. Its latest conference was in Münster in 2012 (http://www.echa2012.info). It is my pleasure to serve this community as the current president. As it was expressed in the last ECHA Conferences, ECHA needs to grow. Best practices of talent support must be shared and propagated in many European countries including Germany, politicians should pay much more attention to the help of talent support. As a response to this need a European Talent Support Network have started to develop. It is supported by grass-root movements in several European countries, the European Parliament and the European Commission. I am looking forward to see, how this European joint treasure will develop in the coming years.

 

5- What is your message for the first gifted awareness week in Germany?

Gifted awareness weeks are great occasions to draw the attention of the broader community to help children and young people with high ability. But they are more than that. They provide an excellent opportunity to expand talent support communities, to share their best practices and vision. Such occasions (together with Talent Days) may bring together a "critical mass" of people and values, which shows the local or national society the importance of this issue. They may introduce successful young talents, their parents, teachers and mentors, and may also show that talent can be discovered at any time of one's life until the very last moment. The exposure of grandparenting talent obviously needs grandchildren. I wish all participants of the first gifted awareness week in Germany and very joyful re-union, and recognition of the multi-coloured power of the goodwill of talent supporting people.