In Paris, on a morning of the third week of August when most of the city is dwelling in the summer laziness, several young men and women are giving their bests in a one month long grueling endurance test.
Although the trial is named, “piscine” which means swimming pool one can see towels dotting the ultra-modern building, the competition is far from being about physical prowess.
These are instead the tryouts for Ecole 42, which is a college for free computer coding that was founded in the year 2013 by Xavier Niel, a French telecoms billionaire for helping the young people to find work in Information technology, or even better, be their own bosses.
The college having no teachers or any conventional tuition rapidly gained the cult status. About forty thousand people apply for one of the roughly thousand spots that are available on the programme each year. From them, about three thousand make it to the overwhelming stage called “piscine” where the candidates spend about 10-16 hours every day for four weeks in order to complete projects and for doing exams.
Some of the candidates even have to sleep and shower on site, hence the towels.
When Niel had announced his plan of a free coding college which was open to all, including the school dropouts, forty per cent of the students don’t even have the school leavers’ “baccalaureat”, the main federation of IT employers of France did not show any response as they could see that the country had already an abundance of engineering colleges.
However, six years after this announcement, Ecole 42, that is based completely on project work and peer learning, has succeeded in disproving the doubters by having a 100 per cent employment rate among its graduates.