The 15th ECHA Conference took place in Vienna from 2-5 March 2016. Location of the conference was the Hall of Science: “Aula der Wissenschaften”. Given the long tradition of education and migration in many European countries, the topics of multiculturalism and intercultural exchange are key priorities on the educational agenda, as well as being natural prerequisites for peaceful co-existence in the 21st century. Giftedness and high potential in a multicultural society is also a topic most relevant and of high interest all over Europe. The title of the conference was thus chosen to be “Talents in Motion: Encouraging the Gifted in the context of Migration and Intercultural Exchange”.
Talents and high abilities are equally distributed among all cultural, ethnic, religious and socio-economic groups. Therefore, potentials and abilities of children, youngsters and young adults with a migration background need to be specially advanced. Thus, the ECHA Conference 2016 focused on the intercultural and multicultural awareness of educating the (highly) gifted. The conference aimed to initiate the encounter of science, research and practice and wished to promote the interdisciplinary exchange: presentations, workshops and symposia from pedagogy, psychology, society, religion, science, philosophy, arts and culture. The themes were:
- Talent promotion as a contribution to personal, social and cultural development
- Ethnic diversity as a value in society and education
- Minorities: aspects and equal chances in talent promotion
- Talent promotion and linguistic competence.
It was organized by Thomasianum Department for Gifted Education and Innovation Vienna (TIBI, Thomasianum Institut für Begabungsentwicklung und Innovation) in cooperation with the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.
The opening speaker was Robert Sternberg (USA) and other speakers were, among others: Camilla Benbow (USA), George Betts (USA), Roland Grabner (Austria), Evelyn Kroesbergen (the Netherlands), Margrit Stamm (Switzerland), Heidrun Stöger (Germany) and Rena Subotnik (USA).
There was a large amount of 609 participants, mostly from Austria of course (231), but also large groups from Germany and the Netherlands and even from as far away as Kazakhstan, Thailand and Sierra Leone.
“The 15th International ECHA Conference in Vienna was the site of the first international panel on topics of global concern related to gifted education. The session was designed for both European and non-European conference participants to compare views and best practices associated with talent support across various continents. (..) The session elicited a large audience and many commented about how little ECHA participants know about the basic structure of other countries’ educational systems and how those systems serve their most talented and vulnerable students.”
(ECHA News vol. 30 no. 1 Spring 2016)
The theme “Talents in Motion” was present in many ways, as Elisabeth Schweiger (Institute TIBI, Austria) describes:
“Before the Conference started, there had been motion in the Institute TIBI together with the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy and our other Austrian partners – a motion felt within Austria to bring the Conference alive. Over 500 participants from all over the world (more than 50 countries) became part of the Conference – motion brought them together. The event combined two essential social and pedagogical issues: gifted education as well as migration and intercultural exchange.
By physical motion the Conference moved from Vienna to Krems on day 3. The speeches, posters, presentations and vibrant discussions concerning giftedness were driven by an immanent flow set off by the presenters and passed on by the participants.
There is a chance that the Conference will further cause motion in the future through the participants who profited by the event, to their students, colleagues and partners - keeping the motion of the Conference alive. It was a great honour for the Institute TIBI to host the ECHA Conference 2016 and a pleasure to welcome you in Vienna.”
(Elisabeth Schweiger, TIBI)
As this report of the Talencenter Budapest shows, the conference was a big success:
“The ECHA Conference 2016 not only highlighted intellectual abilities but also addressed the many faces of intelligences and talents and that make a society thrive. The conference’s scope was interdisciplinary: experts from education, psychology, society, religion, economics, philosophy, culture and many more convened in Vienna to present their research findings and propose practical ideas.
In the poster section there was a Hungarian success, Balázs Hornyák’s poster “Musical Talent Balance Model in the Mirror of Music Competitions” got one of the awards for the Best Poster Presentation. The award is based on the votes of the participants and that fact gives a special value to it.”
(Report on https://talentcenterbudapest.eu/content/echa-conference-2016)
In Vienna Péter Csermely was re-elected as the President of ECHA.
This is how a Greek participan, whose first ECHA experience was the Vienna conference, remembers:
“Taking part in a conference was a new experience for me and I feel really lucky that the 15th ECHA conference in Vienna gave me this opportunity. My first impression and most decisive was the sense of hospitality and intimacy that the organizing team conveyed to participants. The warm environment of the Hall of Science, the smiling faces of people working at the welcoming point helped me from the beginning to feel part of this conference. Most of all, I feel grateful that I had the opportunity to meet fellows from around the world to exchange experiences and new research ideas.”
(Athina Papakonstantinou, ECHA news vol. 30 no. 1 Spring 2016)
A video announcement is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOkT11-fjyc