No fixed desks, no fixed hours, and no sleeping on campus! These were among the introduction points that greeted 150 learners at Luxembourg’s newest coding school on Monday.
The third point may be a given in most vocational educational institutions. However, 42 Luxembourg is not your typical public school. Located in the Digital Learning Hub in Esch-Belval, the school draws on Ecole 42, a coding education initiative founded in Paris in 2013, and now with a network of 52 schools around the world.
The curriculum is project-based, and taught through online resources. Crucially though, there are no teachers. Learners must manage their own schedules and complete projects through their own initiative and peer learning, by helping one another.
“The next month is a trial period to find out if this way of learning without teachers, coming to school, communicating with peers and doing your own research suits you,” manager Serge Linckels told Silicon.”
Diving into the piscine
The four-week trial, referred to as the “piscine”, French for swimming pool, involves weekly tasks, an exam each Friday and a team project for the weekends, which explains why the fourth floor of the school is open 24 days, seven days a week.
Once learners pass this stage, they will start the curriculum. “Here it will be like at the piscine: the school is open 24/7. You work at your pace you have nine levels to do. And when you achieve level nine, you graduate and get the diploma,” Linckels says. On average it takes one year to complete but learners have up to 24 months to get through the material.
The Luxembourg school, which has been four years in the making, was established by the education ministry in response to the massive shortage of IT experts for the Luxembourg labour market. Compared to a bachelor’s degree, the 42 model offered a fast-track solution to train programmers. Data reported from the other operational 42 schools suggests that 100% of graduates find a job after completing the programme.
“Over the last months, we’ve had a lot of companies In Luxembourg wanting to reserve a graduate,” says Linckels, adding: “That’s something we don’t do. We can do matchmaking events and that’s something we’re going to do. But I guess we have more demands from companies than we have students right now.”
The 42 qualification is known in the industry, however, Luxembourg has yet to map it in the higher educational framework. Linckels says that the education ministry is working on making it an officially recognized qualification in the grand duchy. This did not seem to deter the 150 learners, many of which have recently completed high school and chose 42 as an alternative to traditional higher education courses.
Lila, from Metz, France, completed her Baccalaureate in the summer of 2023. She says she caught the programming bug from her father. “My dream is to be in the army. And so to have a career in cybersecurity would be fantastic,” she told Silicon.
A quick survey of the room during the introduction found that the majority of learners were from Luxembourg or the greater region. However, some had come much further away.
Rosara was working as an oil and gas specialist in Kazakhstan when she heard about 42. Determined to change careers, she took a month’s leave and came to Luxembourg to see if she liked the course. “If it does not work out, I will go back to Kazakhstan,” she told Silicon.
Rosara said she would like to pursue a career in Luxembourg, but had some reservations about the high cost of living. One might assume that programmers can command high salaries. However, Linckels explained that it can depend on the area of specialisation and the scarcity of programmers in that field. Upon completion of 42, learners can upskill further by studying any of the 142 supplementary training courses offered by the Digital Learning Hub.
42 Luxembourg will welcome a second cohort at the beginning of January 2024. Linckels said the goal of his 20-strong team is to welcome two cohorts per year.