Noting that the news broke today in Silicon Valley that French billionaire Xavier Niel will be funding a US version of School 42, I thought I’d mention my visit to the school in Paris, last week, as a member of the Harvard Club in France. Truth be told, I came away from that visit, in awe of what the founder, Nicolas Sadirac (see photo at left) has accomplished. While the school is financed by Xavier Niel, the idea and execution are by Nicolas.
Why is this school so amazing? To be frank, I’d answer “What about it isn’t amazing?” 1. Students LOVE the place. They can’t get enough of it. They are there nights and weekends. They are motivated to the hilt, and they tell you how much they love it. 2. There are no teachers. 3. There are no diplomas. 4. It’s free. 5. When they finish or even before they finish, they all either get jobs or create their own.
Beyond the speech by the founder, I had the opportunity to have long discussions with several students, including the one featured in the photo on the right. All said the same. And 6. This is happening in France, a country where the educational system is highly regulated, slow to change, and very teacher top-down.
How does it work? It starts with an online application that requires candidates to solve cognitive intelligence problems. Then there is a bootcamp called “swimming pool” for one month where students must solve IT problems by working intensely together in affinity groups. And the best are admitted.
On site, they all work on beautiful Macs in huge open spaces; there are 900 in the building, 300 per floor. Each student can work on any computer by entering his login. In addition, there are game rooms where students either bring in their own (traditional) games or play video games on school equipment…And let’s not forget those showers for those who are staying over.
One thing, I have to note that was of concern. There are fewer than 10% of women students. I hope that the ratio will be better in the US, but I’m not so sure, as I imagine the system intrinsically suits men better. Maybe Sheryl Sandberg can lean in on this question.
Hope you’ll join me at Doctors 2.0 & You where we’ll be talking about School 42, amongst many other hot innovation topics.