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A Computer Academy in France Defies Conventional Wisdom

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Students at 42, a programming school in Paris.

Students at 42, a programming school in Paris. Started by the telecommunications executive Xavier Niel, it charges no tuition and requires no high school diploma.

Credit: Corentin Fohlen/The New York Times

rench telecommunications executive Xavier Niel has launched 42, a tuition-free computer academy that breaks with the rigid methods and philosophy of the government-run education system and aims to produce graduates who are more innovative, employable, diverse, and useful to the French economy.

Public officials have acknowledged that existing institutions are failing to train students in skills that are in demand. The academy promotes the virtues of entrepreneurship and creative thinking, while the standard French approach traditionally relies on rote learning.

The school marks "the French educational system's inability to address innovation, upward social movement, the emergence of new technologies and sectors," says Institut Montaigne historian and economist Nicolas Baverez.

Prospective students, who are not required to have any programming background, take several hours of online logic tests before being admitted to the school.

The school will focus on problem solving. "We need to grow more culturally accustomed to seeing private initiatives being born," says France's minister for small businesses and the digital sector Fleur Pellerin. She says 42 "corresponds exactly [with] the way we need to be training young people today for the digital economy."

From The New York Times
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