September 30, 2016 | Friday

Seizing opportunities: how to make the most of Europe’s talents

By: EU Commissioner Tibor Navracsics Education, Culture, Youth and Sport

Conference on the Fostering and Development of Talent

Bratislava, 12-13 September 2016

Mr President, Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to be here with you. Let me first thank the Slovak Presidency for advancing work on the important topic of talent development– and gathering motivated professionals from all over Europe to debate it, today and tomorrow.

Let me start with a quote attributed to Plato: “Do not train a child to learn by force of harshness, but direct them to do it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”

Discovering this “bent of genius” is the very purpose of today’s conference: how to identify and tap the talent of every person, of every pupil so that they find their place in society, as an accomplished professional and an engaged citizen.

What is the main role of our education systems in accomplishing this task? First of all, let me stress that it is not only a task for schools. All the actors involved in formal, informal and non-formal education, including parents, have a part to play in revealing the talent of each and every child. It is for all of them to help each and every student to discover what they are good at; to help them develop their talents and skills to the highest possible level. We need to involve the entire school community as well as different stakeholders, multi-professional teams, parents and families. Putting the learner at the centre is a shared effort;

All children have great potential. Sadly, this potential too often remains untapped. This is something the EU can simply not afford: a waste of human resources, this is to say, countless human tragedies as well as a collective failure.  

I am not just talking about academic talent here – It is high time we acknowledged a broad range of talent and skills. I guess most of you are familiar with the widely recognised works of Howard Gardner, the American researcher who identified multiple intelligences: from interpersonal to musical, from  spatial to linguistic, logical, naturalistic or intrapersonal.

We can I think all agree that too often, talent is assessed on rigid criteria that do not reflect its richness and complexity. We need to open up the concept of talent and think beyond academic achievement. Schools still tend to focus on a narrow idea of ability – academic work.  We need talent in higher education, but we also need talent in vocational education and training. We need talent in the arts and sports, in serving people and in creating innovations – we need talent in disciplines that probably have not got a name yet, but which will generate millions of jobs by 2030.

How does the European Commission help Member States make the most of young people’s talent? The New Skills Agenda for Europe, launched in June, responds to these concerns and sends clear messages. It is a call to work together to strengthen human capital, employability and competitiveness. It will have its part in overcoming the youth unemployment and skills mismatch we see in the EU right now – but also in preventing it from happening again in the future.

The Skills Agenda takes a long-term perspective, and rightly so,  as today’s education is tomorrow’s society. So where do we start? In the class room, if not before. And where do we stop?  Providing the right skills is obviously relevant at all levels of education including higher education and even beyond – and throughout people’s lifetime. Learning never stops.    

This takes me to another important question. What skills should education systems provide and for what purpose? Some might say we need to focus on employability and hence the technical skills relevant to specific jobs or sectors.

But what about basic skills? Skills such as cultural and civic literacy, creativity, the ability to collaborate and to solve problems, persistence, curiosity, social and cultural awareness? You think this is a long, eclectic and random list? Actually, I am naming some of the key twenty century competences identified this year by the World Economic Forum. So these are the skills that very relevant employers are searching for!

And this list of transversal skills sends us a clear message: what employers want is to hire young people who are aware of and confident in their own talent and ready to develop it at the workplace and elsewhere.  

That is why, as part of the Skills Agenda, I have committed to reviewing the Key Competences Framework for lifelong learning. It is an excellent tool, but dates back to 2006. We need to update it to reflect current needs. And we need to give it the importance it deserves.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Another vital factor in making the most of people’s talent is entrepreneurship education. It is essential to teach young people how to seize the opportunities that their particular talents open up to them.

Entrepreneurship education is the much needed link to Europe’s future success, innovation and competitiveness. I do not mean merely the skills or knowledge on how to set up and run a company. I mean the wider spectrum of entrepreneurial spirit and attitudes which enable individuals to thrive in any work setting and all parts of life, to respond positively to change and to help make the world a better place through their ideas.

We need to reinforce entrepreneurship education for our students, but also for our teachers. It is already high on the agenda of the European Union and of many Member States. However, I want to give a fresh boost to the development of entrepreneurial skills. We need to make sure that every young person will have an entrepreneurial experience before leaving school – at least one experience where their unique talents are appreciated and presented in an entrepreneurial format! This will be a priority for my work with EU Ministers for Education next year as we implement the Skills Agenda.

Thank you for your attention and a special word of thanks again for the organisers of this important event. I wish you two days of fruitful discussions!