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École 42, a free, teacher-less university schooling programmers (2017) (qz.com)
60 points by Osiris30 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 29 comments



I don't know the credibility of this Reddit post, but it might be of interest: https://www.reddit.com/r/learnprogramming/comments/91bjlr/sc...


Some of those anecdotes do seem pretty far fetched (the cat and battleship) but in my experience Epita/Epitech doesn't produce good software engineers and the director Nicolas Sadirac is from there. And, that director really has no idea what he's talking about in https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrGgpwl5O4Q&feature=youtu.be...

So, I'm rather skeptical when it comes to Ecole 42. We have great engineering schools in France but the Epita derived schools are really not that great and the only decent graduate I've ever interviewed and hired from one of this school is a self learner who would have been great in any environment.


I'm pretty skeptical about that kind of school too.

I graduated from an French engineering school and I was taught every-day by researchers and professional engineers. That's what most 18 to 23 year-old kid needs. Structure. I know I needed it. I was a dumb 20 something year old.

Plus, that kind of school focuses too much on programming, as in using programming language, and not enough on computer science and engineering. As a result, much of the kids arriving on the job market don't really have an engineering approach to building software. I've seen people using one programming language for most of their carreer, litteraly afraid of switching to another one.

Some may feel that the job market is saturated by programmers looking for a job but the truth is, in France anyway, not much have a good engineering mind. I've worked in big companies, i've worked in small companies and I've talked to a lot a recruiters. They do interview a lot of people, from university, engineering school and other formation structures. Truth is i've seen big and small companies recruting students that had majored in anything but CS, juste because they came from an engineering school or university that was known to produce good engineers.

Most of those students reavealed themselves to be very talented software engineers. Because they were taught engineering. Not just programming.

Of course, students that had majored in CS from engineering had a great head start, but my point is, the engineer skill is really important on the programmer job and most of those bootcamp school overlook it.


Please do not compare EPITECH or 42 to EPITA they are not the same school at all. There is student teaching at EPITA (the idea come from here) but it is framed and supervised by the school and others teachers (and it's only for programming project, not CS courses that are taught by researcher or teacher).

> Some may feel that the job market is saturated by programmers looking for a job but the truth is, in France anyway, not much have a good engineering mind. I've worked in big companies, i've worked in small companies and I've talked to a lot a recruiters. They do interview a lot of people, from university, engineering school and other formation structures. Truth is i've seen big and small companies recruting students that had majored in anything but CS, juste because they came from an engineering school or university that was known to produce good engineers

Can you develop this part I'm curious, how do you make the difference between a good engineering mind and a bad one for example ?


> Can you develop this part I'm curious, how do you make the difference between a good engineering mind and a bad one for example ?

Sure

I'm simply stating what I've been feeling meeting developpers peers the last few years. I've met engineers and I've met tinkerers.

As far as what I've understood, engineering is mostly conception. Given a set a requirements and constraints, the engineer does some thinking and tries to come up with a technical solution that satisfies both requirements and constraints. Much of the time it's about compromising. That requires thinking ahead and anticipating stuff. Whatever the field, CS, aerodynamics or mechanics, the process is basically the same with different time scales. You're given a problem or a need. You have to understand it and its implications. You have to imagine some tool that will solve it. And the tool will exactly solve it. Durably. Efficiently.

Now, sometimes you can see developpers throwing a few lines of codes, assembling (with more or less duct tape) some modules found here and there and then testing it with a few simple cases.

Nothing wrong with that way of doing things. I do it myself on some home-projects of for a Proof Of Concept on the job. I litteraly use duct tape on some robot-arduino-thingy that I build for fun.

This way of doing thing, I call tinkering. And it's needed as much as engineering. Tinkering, DIY, duct taping, it's where new and innovative ideas come from. Because when you tinker you play around. You add this or that just to see what could happen.

But the thing is, when you tinker you don't build to last. And I've seen many developpers building things that way that would be delivered to clients in production.

So maybe when I said "not much have a good engineering mind" I should have said "not much understand the difference beetween DIY and Engineering". Both are needed. The key is to know when and why.

Finally, engineering is taught, yes, but it's a skill that is also and mainly developped with your few first years on the job. Not just in uni. I just feel that It should be a concern of any school that teaches futur developpers. Or a concern of any company that hire freshly out of school students. I know I try to sensibilize my interns to those subjects.


> but in my experience Epita/Epitech doesn't produce good software engineers

How so? It's one of the best IT schools from France and the concept was even adapted in the US. As an example, I could point to Docker which was founded by epitech students.


I've been an student assistant at Epitech. The truth is, some are OK but some are ridiculously good, and when I say good they are nowhere near occasional programmer or engineer skillset, they excel in a lot of fields, are able to switch up and learn tech in about 3 days and be very good at it, they learn constantly and have been exposed to innovation research daily. Most of my friends ended up working at Google or getting bought out by Google (Flat, or some of my friends that currently work at GG, most of the normies work in UK) - more importantly they do what they want.

Tbh, I don't know how you could impress an Epitech student that has been able to keep his feet on the ground. It happens that some of us get lost in their dark research garage (Hei !) and loose it up for a few, but that usually a period until they figure out what's wrong.

Thing is, most of us have been exposed to those crazy good dudes (Hei, i'll write my compiler day 1), (or i'll just make a game on my free time month 2) and steadily we got very very hard to impress.

Tough from how the friends have evolved, I assure you we are very concerned by correct resilient architecture.

It just happens of who you end up working with.


> It's one of the best IT schools from France

According to whom?


According to me, that's my point of view, you have very few schools which put enough practice to create good developers at the end.


> in my experience Epita/Epitech doesn't produce good software engineers

Could you explain a bit more? I’m myself from Epitech, and it hurts my feelings :p


Take it with a grain of salt, because I worked mainly in the industry (automotive, telecom, medical devices).

Generally, a more generic engineer diploma includes some electrical engineering, mechanics, signal processing, and so on. Sometimes there is a bias against Epita/Epitech candidates that they are too focused on CS or IT but not on more generic knowledge. So they are seen are less well rounded candidates overall.

Designing/building system is usually not a purely abstract CS problem but requires to take into account real world constraints.

On the other hand, I assume that Epita/Epitech candidates are probably better candidate for an environment like a bank or insurance company.


EPITA student here, the thing is the majority of the student are not interested by those area, the first half are more interested going to FB, Google, Nvidia etc... or smaller companies but tech oriented than going to big telecom or medical companies like you said. The other half goes to more corporate / consulting companies because it pays well. Like you said Industry does not promote their sector in our school so no one knows about them or what they offer.

It's true that EPITA is definetely more CS oriented, but we are definetely capable of designing / building system (in IT), less in telecom / medical and even less in automotive.The reason is really simple it's because we are not passionate about these industries .

Btw EPITA is an engineering school not EPITECH so you can't really compare them they are just part of the same group.


... Epita, efrei, supinfo ... great great school everybody know this, in France au moins.

... Epitech is a very special little thing.

Sadirac, real old hacker from semantec, build just 20 year the futur of computer school: student become teacher, each test is an automatic correction ...

So, 42 is bully, in my opinion, but Epitech remain la crème de la crème.


You do realize that all the epitech staff, including sadirac himself moved to found ecole 42 years ago ?


Dang, uhh well those anecdotes are pretty damning. I'd love to see a followup/update from Quartz addressing those issues. Unfortunately it seems the article is from September 2017, so I won't hold my breath on that...


I got a Job after attending the silicon valley branch of 42, I've definitely heard that the french campus is more extream but not to the degree that the post claims. Some of that stuff like examiners playing battleship to remove test takers is pretty far fetched. As for the cat, I have heard rule was not feeding the cat or taking it places because she once got sick from a student feeding her.

My evidence is just as annocdotal. But someone who seems to thinks they did not get into the school because they are male might not be the most trustworthy source.

One thing he did not mention is that the entry test that lasts a month the "piscine" does not have a limited quota of students. Each branch gets more funding the more students they have, so the only incentive to deny a someone is if they obviously won't be able to handle the work load or have social issues.


> I'd love to see a followup/update from Quartz addressing those issues.

As if Quartz ever held itself to any standards of investigative journalism and wasn't just a glorified blog...


Just keep in mind that most higher education is "free" anyway in France (either around 400€ a year for registration fees or totally free for people which have a government scholarship) and there is no exams entry at the university. Some formations are selective and some require some money to enrol but overall the only innovation this "school" provide is... the absence of teachers.


And the project based work, and the help of older students that force you to learn by yourself, and the opportunity to help students that aren't good with the classic way of doing school (shut-up and listen to a teacher talk for 3 hours), and teaching you to be independent and responsible, and forcing you to think like a real world professional, and making you own up to your decision, the ability to go beyond what was asked and be rewarded for it... I could go on and on about this school which is in my opinion becoming worse every year, but the core concept is amazing and truly adapted for an IT school of the 21st century.


Everything you cited exists also in the traditional university system. Projects (one or two per subject per semester, sometime with a high degree of liberty for the details), getting help from other students (just go in the CS student association and ask), tutoring others (I did it a few time), independence & responsability (going only in class you need, skipping others and taking the exams), going beyond what asked (for instance, majoring in two diploma at the same time), etc. You can make your university journey almost anything you want. But the main failure point of most student imo is that they consider the teacher are against them. Some are, but most aren't and are really likely to help any motivated student who ask for it.

So, I thing that the no teacher style school is very bad in the sense that it have no-one to force student learning stuff they don't want to but that are important. This can form bubbles of knowledge with important or interesting things not included. One the reverse, the traditional university still consider students as children (which most are, actually) and does not give enough space to do thing in one's way. It is still possible to go, but it require a lot of efforts.


Two problems with title of post:

- 2017 article

- Ecole 42 is not a "university": https://ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=university


This is probably because the original school was based in France and in France `University` is not protected the same way. Although 42 Paris is is actually addredited by the French government.


Just to clarify something : Université in france is a very special type of public educational entity, that for example does research. In no way can any private school pretend to be one.


I was surprised to learn that main technical companies in France do not really care for most French university exact kind of diplomas, when they care for specific diplomas it is from a reduced set of organizations, and they pay well in that case.

For French universities, what they care for is the level of the diploma (graduate/master/phd) but frankly they often do not care about the diploma itself.

I have seen PhD people been recruited at a lower pay than engineers that graduated from Supelec for example.


yeap. This is due to the way students are selected after high school. engineering schools are much difficult to enter than universities ( because universities in france theorically don’t have the right to select first year students based on grades... yeah i know...)

So, the most valued way to do research in france is actually to first do one of those highly competitive schools first, then go to university for a phd.

But culturally, companies pay a lot more attention to the kind of engineering school you’ve been to than to your phd.


The diploma is not recognized by the French gov or any European institution. At this time, finishing your 3 years at 42 grants you a line in your resume but that's pretty much it. you wont be able to claim any type of degree with it


On the other hand, French companies love it!


I like the concept but I don't believe the diploma it grants "counts" in France for applying to e.g. master's and PhD programmes and most French smart people I knew had little interest in stopping with undergrad. In French culture "number of years of schooling" is actually a pretty important metric so I feel like a university that does not leave you a chance to go beyond the 3 years is going to only get the people who are really committed to the formula as well as those who don't have good alternatives.

What do people in Silicon Valley think of their US version vs coding bootcamps or other private universities? It seems it could gain a bigger following there?


Fantastic. Creative answers to education and job upward mobility.

I hope we see more of these kinds of things!




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