The Paris “42 Born to Code” School

What would a new school for the modern age be like? Is it possible for an entrepreneur to create a model that can stimulate state bureaucracy? On 27 August 2015 Piero Angela addressed these questions, presenting a unique school based in Paris. Over the past 30 years I have asserted many times that curriculums, text books and exams should be abolished in schools, and students oriented towards problem solving rather than learning the solutions to problems that have not been posed. In businesses too, fluid organisational and de-structured models are more suitable for the flow of new technologies. Is all this actually possible? Judging from École 42, it is possible, achievable and effective. The school for young software programmers is completely de-structured. No qualifications are necessary for entry, just strong motivation and the ability to pass tests of increasing difficulty. There is no tuition, teachers, courses, lessons or text books. No exams are taken and no certificates awarded. The most innovative companies do however keep a close eye on the young people coming out of this school, and are ready to employ them, or to entrust them with specific projects. Other times it is the youngsters themselves that leave the school ready to start their own businesses. The school, financed by Xavier Niel, a billionaire and founder of the French Free telecommunications network, is a stimulus to French bureaucracy and politics, working on the principle that existing schools are still bound to the industrial model, in which several units of the same thing have to be produced, while the e-society now demands that just one new thing new be produced, followed by another. The Model T Ford had to be sold in many examples that were all the same, Facebook is unique and there is no point in making a copy, the job is to invent something else. A school with structures and a rigid curriculum therefore, that educates students to execute and obey, to repeat back things they have learned, and always do the same things, is no longer relevant, neither for the present nor for the future. A different kind of school is needed, that can educate today for tomorrow. But nobody knows what we will need to know or know how to do tomorrow. It is therefore no use creating curriculums and study plans, or setting educational goals. Work groups around a problem are the way to go, proposed by a facilitator, a student, an external client, and work continues until the right solutions are found. Anyone with anything to say says it. Whoever knows how to do something shows anyone needing to do that thing how it’s done. The school is open 24 hours a day, because good ideas can come at any time. Students arrive when they want to, sit in front of the first computer they find free, go online with their group of colleagues and work. Or they sit next to colleagues working on the same project. If they need to sleep or relax, they go to a room and do so without having to account to anyone. On the walls there are works of art put there to stimulate the imagination of the problem solvers. Training lasts for five years and is completely free. There are 42 places and so selection for admission is severe. The school represents an organisational model that ought to be adopted in traditional schools, as well as in businesses, at least in those with a high technological content. Umberto Santucci

written by: Umberto Santucci , 7 October 2015

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