The exterior of 42. Image courtesy of 42

Xavier Neil’s Coding School 42 is Shaking the Tech World

French billionaire Xavier Neil had a radical idea about education. But instead of just talking about it, he decided to take action. Unsatisfied about France’s current talent gap, he decided to start a coding school himself and fix the problem by taking action. With his co-founders Florian Bucher, Nicolas Sadirac and Kwame Yamgnane, the brand new coding school 42 is changing the computer education landscape. Initially established in Paris, a second campus in the Silicon Valley will start education November 2016. Here’s what 42 is doing and why it is shaking the tech world.

Equipe 42
Left to right, clockwise; 42 founders Xavier Niel, Florian Bucher, Nicolas Sadirac and Kwame Yamgnane pose together. Image courtesy 42

The School is Open to All

Open to all individuals ages 18 through 30, the school does not have any prerequisites to enter. You don’t even have to show that you can read or write, nor do you have to bring a diploma with you. The school’s only criteria is talent and motivation. The reason why Neil and his team think this is a good way to recruit is that coding is only based on logic. Their aim is to democratize the process by not asking anything about students’ past, or the things they have learned before. This is not surprising, given that in France there is a legionnaire system where soldiers are recruited regardless of their backgrounds.

A picture from 42's campus. Image courtesy 42
A picture from 42’s campus. Image courtesy 42

42 is Completely Free of Charge

Given that there is a serious talent gap, Neil thinks that France can no longer afford not to have enough workers who can work in the digital technology field. 42 will create 1,000 jobs directly per year. The reason why they are able to have so many talented individuals working under their institution is that the school is completely free and there are no hidden fees. Neil has fished out a whopping $100 M from his personal account, and has pledged to fund the school for 10 years.

They Recruit the Best of the Best Coders Across the World

And they do it through a very selective process. Anyone can try to enter the school, but only the best succeed. Students enter www.42.fr ‘s site for registration and go through an online aptitude test based on logic. About 4,000 students pass this and form a student pool called “La Piscine” (which means pool in french!), 42 keeps a thousand of the best students and let them in early November.

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There is no Set Curriculum

The task and skill sets 42 offers is not based on a set curriculum with a teacher lecturing the students and telling them what to do. It’s a Peer-to-Peer learning method where people teach themselves based on a set of projects. A lot of participation and collaboration is involved. For some people it takes 3 years to complete the program, for others 5. The campus is open 24/7 and students choose the amount of time they wish to spend in the futuristic building. Regardless of the time span, once people go through 42’s education, they have a robust and solid knowledge and can code pretty much anything.

There are no Teachers, Just Tasks

There is staff hired, obviously, who will guide and tell students what they should be doing next, but the most important thing in this institution is not the staff; it is the system that allows students to grow and thrive, become familiar to the language and eventually be fluent in coding.

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So How Will This Transform Tech?

I think we will be seeing more digital natives in the tech industry. The landscape is changing fast with thousands of talented individuals entering the field. Unlike the previous generation of coders, these people will have far more resources and knowledge at an arm’s reach and can provide faster solutions. With the increase of the number of people who know how to code, we will see people who can actually code in a creative manner. That is why 42 is so significant and relevant, and not just a tech buzz.

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