About the Project

This project is one of the 2017 WISE Awards winners. 

42 is a high quality, computer-programming training program. It is free of charge and is open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 30 whether they possess an academic degree or not. The training takes place over a period of three to five years. At 42, neither financial ability nor educational degree are weighed in the selection process; the fact that students are selected solely on the basis of their talent and motivation is indicative of the core philosophy of this uniquely innovative, educational approach.

There are no classes and no professors at 42. The students are in charge of their success and the success of their classmates. Students learn by tackling a specific project in groups. In order to progress on the projects offered to them, they must rely on the strength of the group, giving and receiving information while alternating between training and learning. Each student within the group is responsible for a part of the project’s completion and success within the group just as it would be in the workplace.

Context and Issue

Research indicates that children of well-off families are disproportionately likely to stay well-off and children of poor families are very likely to remain poor. For example, a child born to parents with income in the lowest quintile is ten times more likely as an adult to end up in the lowest quintile than in the highest. The lack of opportunity for social mobility hinders the development of an increasingly large number of countries around the world. New models for access to education need to be developed in order to support access to quality education that provides youth with opportunities for upward social mobility.

Moreover, youth around the world are increasingly constrained by higher levels of education debt. For instance, in the United States where the problem of student debt is the most dramatic, about 70 percent of graduating high school seniors in 2013 incurred an average debt of $28,400. This is due to increases in tuition. Finally, traditional school systems around the world are reaching their limits in fostering skills and abilities such as creativity, innovation, adaptability and collaborative work. The new and complex challenges that the world faces in various sectors require a new educational model that is able to motivate youth and harness their creativity and potential for innovation to tackle those challenges. 42 aims to provide free access, without grade and accreditation related obstacles, to a new educational model that fosters innovation, creativity and collaborative work.

Solution and Impact

The 42 experience starts with a selection process that is unlike schools and universities around the world; it does not rely on grades and accreditation. 42’s unique selection process is named the ‘piscine’ (French for swimming pool). Students who pass the online tests are invited to either Paris or Fremont, Silicon Valley for four weeks of immersive experience, in which only motivation, willpower and hard work will keep them afloat. During the piscine, students work in groups to solve diverse problems, tackle tasks and accomplish projects using coding. Only those who complete the piscine successfully, will be invite to enroll at 42.

The team at 42 believes that collecting grades has never been the best form of motivation. Progress at 42 is tracked using experience points similar to video games. Students develop their competencies through each of the proposed projects and receive experience points in exchange for accomplishing projects successfully. Each completed project unlocks the next project. This gamification model allows all learning to be fun, while enhancing students’ passion, persistence, and motivation to get to the next level. It is difficult to fall behind in 42’s curriculum because its pace is adaptable and highly individualized.

Since its creation in 2013, 42 has received more than 150,000 applications worldwide. Today, 42 welcomes 2,500 students who train themselves every day to become the best developers of tomorrow. Thus far, 42 has welcomed international students from a wide array of countries around the globe, including the United States, Brazil, China, Japan, Morocco, Sweden and South Africa. 

Future Developments

So far, 42’s model has been replicated in Romania, South Africa, Moldova and Ukraine. The organization is studying various proposals for the duplication of 42’s pedagogical and economic models. Currently, the founder, Xavier Niel, guaranties the funds for 42 so that it carries its mission for the next ten years without the students having to incur any cost. 42 uses a limited crew and a pedagogical model that reduces the effective cost per student which increases the longevity of the project. 42 is now a foundation and can more easily seek alternative funding and donations to remain free for students. 

May 26, 2017 (last update 12-24-2020)