PARIS — École 42 might be one of the most ambitious experiments in engineering education.
It has no teachers. No books. No MOOCs. No dorms, gyms, labs, or student centers. No tuition.
And yet it plans to turn out highly qualified, motivated software engineers, each of whom has gone through an intensive two- to three-year program designed to teach them everything they need to know to become outstanding programmers.
The school, housed in a former government building used to educate teachers (ironically enough), was started by Xavier Niel. The founder and majority owner of French ISP Free, Niel is a billionaire many times over. He’s not well known in the U.S., but here he is revered as one of the country’s great entrepreneurial successes in tech.
He is also irrepressibly upbeat, smiling and laughing almost nonstop for the hour that he led a tour through École 42 earlier this week. (Who wouldn’t be, with that much wealth? Yet I have met much more dour billionaires before.)
Niel started École 42 with a 70 million euro donation. He has no plans for it to make money, ever.