Imagine a university without professors. Students only learn by doing projects. Each of them has to be completed within 48 hours and each morning the students receive a new assignment. Jobs pile up, you have to deal with disparity, tackle the disorganization that spreads with the influx of tasks, and optimizes time. This all sounds a lot like the real world, closer to the job market than to padding academic limbo. And all this happens at École 42. This atypical French programming school has been operating in Paris for four years.
There are no professors to teach the subjects and the students organize their work. As projects are completed, student-to-student learning is encouraged. The training is divided into modules, such as integration, algorithms or artificial intelligence, and languages, such as Python, C, or Java.
Training at École 42 is free. To enter the school, candidates pass several tests. The last one is a kind of camp that lasts a month. In this, the applicants have to prove to be the best. Registration is earned by meritocracy, according to those responsible for the centre.
Those who enter the École 42 education have between three and five years of free training. About 80% of students find a job before finishing their studies, according to the school, and all have a job after they finish.
The founder and benefactor of École 42 are French businessmen Xavier Niel. He has spent 48 million euros of his fortune on the Paris campus and another 46 million on another school that opened last year in Silicon Valley.
Niel’s goal is for the Silicon Valley campus to grow to 10,000 students. From there, the idea of opening a branch of the school in China will be considered. The businessman does not disclose any financial interest behind the schools. Rather, their intention has been to create a possibility for free education and to combat deficiencies in the traditional education system.
But the truth is that maintaining schools is 7 million euros a year. An invoice that one of the school’s students will take care of in the future when one of them emerges as the next digital entrepreneur. At least that’s how Niel thinks.
By the way, the name is not a coincidence but a very freaky reference. The number 42 refers to the popular novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, later made into a movie. In the crazy world created by Douglas Adams, 42 is the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and all things.