Pi Attitude Zone: Self-Fulfilment

Le Software: French Students Are Optimistic

When you start up a new college for software developers, and fifty thousand applicants apply for the 1,000 available places, you know you are addressing a latent need.  Silicon Valley?  No, Paris, France.

This futuristic new school, under construction in the heart of France’s capital, is an abrupt departure from the rigid educational conventions hitherto prevalent in France.  It is to be privately-financed, and free to its students.  Waiving such fripperies as entrance qualifications and diplomas, it dedicates itself to talent, hard work and ambition, especially among people from the poor suburbs on the periphery of Paris, where the young rarely get a break in life.  With French youth facing unemployment rates of around 25%, this is big news.  Those lucky enough to get places will have an excellent chance of getting jobs with the 70% of French software firms who are having problems recruiting qualified engineers and developers.

The new college is to be named ‘42’, a quirky joke derived from the cult science-fiction spoof the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  (42, pronounced the Guide, is the answer to “life the universe and everything”).  Another key number in the equation is 24, the number of hours per day that the school will be kept open. 

France’s educational establishment, and even prestigious newspapers like Le Monde (which has described the 42 college as “strange”) seem bemused by the new development.  Educational systems in France have always been nominally meritocratic, but a principal aim has always been the production and maintenance of elite groups to populate the halls of government, public administration and corporate boardrooms.  The idea of fostering talent among the poorer people and immigrants who populate the banlieues ringing the capital sounds to French ears like promoting more social mobility than the system was ever designed to encourage.  Until now, the biggest determining factor governing a student’s academic performance was his/her socio-economic level.  42 is a direct challenge to an ingrained class system.

Even more unusually (for France), 42 will encourage its students to think for themselves and self-administer their coursework, rather than just “learning stuff”.  Hitherto French education has instilled knowledge and discipline, not a curious state of mind, a problem-solving mentality, or an entrepreneurial approach to life and career.  With such a background, it is small wonder that the alumni of French schools and colleges have been leaving full-time education with an innate French pessimism. 

Pi says “Chapeau” to the radically different approach embodied in School 42.

Zone: Self-Fulfilment Country: Europe Product – Business / Professional