France’s Non-Profit Coding School 42 Comes to Silicon Valley

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pexels, Creative Commons)

A new coding university is set to open in Silicon Valley that does not consider SAT scores for admission or charge tuition — and it’s hoping to enroll 10,000 students over the next five years to train them to become software engineers.

The coding school, 42, was first launched in France in 2013 by businessman Xavier Niel, who is CEO of telecom giant Illiad.  Currently, the school is teaching 2,500 students in Paris to code, writes Kia Kokalitcheva for Fortune.

According to Niel, 42 is his response to the strict education system in France which he says focuses on “formalized, nationally controlled testing that favors workhorses over creative geeks and maverick innovators.”

Niel said the US-based school hopes to fix an imbalance of skills currently in place in the country.  Although computer education has come a long way in the US, 42 believes that the educational system currently “deprives” many companies of the workers skilled in programming that they need in order to succeed.

“We also find it regrettable that in such a creative country, the educational system promotes differences and deprives our companies of the human resources adapted to the urgency of creation and innovation,” a statement from 42 organizers reads. “With 42, we want to guarantee jobs for young adults and equip digital companies in every sense of the word, big groups, young innovative companies or even start-ups, with talents which they need.”

In order to allow the school to run tuition-free, Niel plans to invest $100 million to help it open.  That money will be put toward a new 200,000-square-foot building in Fremont that will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, completely equipped with iMacs, writes Romain Dillet for TechCrunch.  In addition, the building will offer housing to at least 300 low-income students.

Students at the school will range in age from 18 to 30.  Once the online application is completed, prospective students are put into what the 42 team refer to as a virtual swimming pool where 1,000 students will face off, completing the same coding and logic challenges.

Prospective students have four weeks to complete the challenges within the swimming pool.  Coding can take place at the applicant’s leisure, day or night.  At the end, the best students are offered admission to the school.

Once in the school, students will not find teachers or classrooms.  It is expected that students will learn a set of skills in three to five years.  In order to achieve this, peer reviews, coding projects, internships and gamification are all put to use.

Because the school is only three years old, it is difficult to determine how well the method works because very few students have graduated so far.  However, some French students are showing their dedication to the program by sleeping in the hallways, writes Jon Fingas for engadget.

The school is currently accepting applications, with the first round of students set to begin studying at 42 in November.

An introduction video has also been released by 42 on YouTube featuring tech leaders such as Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel, Facebook’s David Marcus, and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey giving their approval of the school.