You only need 2 reasons to believe in 42

No teachers, classrooms, lessons. But stay as long as you like. Can it work? Of course. If you seriously consider what you’re learning system is supposed to deliver and then creates it with that target clearly in mind. Here is an example on how to do it. But it comes down to the admission-process instead.

The coding school “42” in France has an unusual profile. They have none of what characterizes a regular educational activity. No teachers. No classrooms. No lessons. Not even a fixed time for graduation – stay as long as needed.

At the same time, they are open 24/7, even on weekends.

They expect their students to more or less live at the campus. Fun, right; A coding school that, at this very moment, do not work 100 % digitally? They claim physical appearance being useful in order to keep up motivation ­– more on that below, it´s a specifically important thing for this school.

42 seems to work fine. But why does it work?

Remember that 42 is a coding school. The name borrowed from the best selling-book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: “42 is the answer, what is the question?” Founded by one of France’s richest entrepreneurs. It has now been around for almost 10 years, and has also opened in California. They seem to be very popular. If nothing else, they have high search pressure.

Superficially, they look like many “coding boot-camps/schools” we can now find on the globe. Their niche is just programmers. And students are trained with the help of projects, instead of “teachers, classrooms and classical lectures”. Here you “learn by doing”.

But behind the surface, there is something else that I think is very interesting to focus on: Their admission process (to be honest; practicing “learning by doing” is not that unusual today).

42 are not unique in the sense that they are open to any type of applicant. So do some other coding schools – good grades in for instance literature, or political science, is perhaps not what makes you into a good programmer later on in life.

And they are not even unique being completely free, no tuition – the founder, Xavier Neil, has guaranteed their existence over a relatively long period of time.

It is something else that is interesting about their type of admission process.

Their intake process is not even about what you might expect from a “modern” coding-school of today: “show me that you learned to code as a youngster in your basement at home”. On the contrary. In fact, a relatively large number of their students do not have any major computer skills at all before they start. Still, they can get in.

This is how their admission process works…

Step 1: A digital logic test, open to everyone.

But it is not a test in whether you know mathematics in specific or not, just pure logic. Being able to think logically is not by definition related to knowing mathematics. The test can be done by just anyone.

Step 2: If you pass the logic test, you will be invited to their “swimming pool” (La Piscine, as it is called in French). It is an intensive work period of one month where you are expected to work on different projects more or less 15 hours a day (!). And if you manage step 2, you will be accepted.

That’s it.

The interesting thing about this admission process is not that it can look random, superficial even ill-considered, on the contrary. It is clearly well thought out.

If nothing else, the founder himself believes that there are really only two things that are important for a person, anyone really, to develop into a high-performing programmer: you have to be able to think logically, and be highly motivated. If you are just that, you can then absorb everything else that you need to learn during the road.

You can believe, or think, what you want about this concept. But chew on it.

One might think, for example, that this admissions system sounds quite brutal, purely elitist in some sense. 15 hours a day for a month is not really how other school’s work, right? But then we forget: you do not have to have gone to any school before and received high grades to get in. And the fee is zero. In that sense, this system is certainly neither brutal nor particularly elitist.

This intake system is only there to thin out those with the best conditions to be able to develop into good programmers. And if you are a school that are short of places; Then why not do just that? As a proxy it probably works pretty well (compared to other possible admission processes, not the least the existing ones you already know of).

Because; the more motivated we are the more, and better, and faster, we learn.

This system illustrates something very central: no existing learning concepts work for everyone, and for everything, and we never will find one that does. There is no silver bullet for “all kind of learning”, because all of us humans are different.

But; we can develop systems that are really great for some people, and for some purposes, and that is more than good enough.

With another purpose than 42, develop another system. But think carefully, like they seem to have done, what you want that system to be able to achieve, and then create it, so it also achieves it. Or in other words: a good system is good at delivering what it is supposed to deliver.

So, what do you, really, seriously, want your specific “learning system” to deliver?

P.S. After you have read this far I wonder if you not also have started to think in the same was as I: what would happen if we used a similar “clear-target-related” system as 42, also for employment in industry?

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