School 42 vs. Holberton School: “We do not consider Xavier Niel’s school as a competitor”

by bold-lichterman

Xavier Niel and his team announced last month the opening of Ecole 42, the American version of the structure created in France, next July, in Fremont, California. A few miles north, in San Francisco, the Holberton School was also created last year by Julien Barbier and Sylvain Kalache. Their objectives are apparently similar: to train the computer engineers of tomorrow and “to use the same educational tools which have made the success of Epitech and 42 in France”, specifies to Frenchweb Julien barber.

Both have opted for new methods, such as “the peer-learning and project-based learning, ”explains the Holberton School. While the two schools founded by French people will now coexist, Julien Barbier’s team has chosen to enthusiastically welcome the project of Xavier Niel, with a Press release. How far does this enthusiasm for competition go…? Interview of Julien Barbier, co-founder of the Holberton School.

Frenchweb : The arrival of a competing school of this size, in California, (Xavier Niel announced to invest 100 million dollars in the project) on your market does it worry your school?

Julien Barbier, co-founder of the Holberton School : The Holberton School is the first American school to offer an education based on the methodologies used by Epitech and School 42 (The peer-learning and project-based learning). To see a first competitor arrive, which is more of this magnitude, could indeed appear as catastrophic news. But that’s not the case at all. We are more than happy to see 42 open in California.

By 2020, there will be a shortfall of nearly one million IT-skilled people in the United States. Classical education will not be able to meet this demand, because it is based on a linear correlation “teachers / students”. If your university employs X professors, Y students can be trained. At the same time, we all know how difficult it is to recruit good teachers, let alone recruit good computer engineers.

It is by extension extremely difficult to recruit good computer science teachers. The peer learning, used by the Holberton School and 42, addresses this problem by removing the teacher from the equation. There are no teachers at 42 or Holberton. With this new form of education, we have the potential to solve the problem both from an economic (businesses cannot grow fast enough if they cannot find the required skills) and social (we can give access to this quality education to many more people). To sum up, we have a model that “scales”, and this is an extremely important point.

Having said that, we are employing a radically different method from classical education. This method, used by Epitech since its creation, took nearly 15 years to be known and recognized by the general public in France. When 42 was talked about, Xavier Niel and his team have literally evangelized the whole of France and have made this method recognized by the general public, and especially the politicians who can in turn use the knowledge of this method to act in a practical way and influence the education of talents. French. This evangelization created more demand more quickly, and all schools employing the methodology peer-learning and by project have benefited, including the biggest competitor of 42 in France: the Epitech. This evangelization is therefore the first step in our mission to disrupt education on a large scale.

The United States is a much bigger country than France, and it will take much longer to evangelize such a market. Since our launch, we have been working a lot on this evangelization. Last year, we met hundreds of tech and education players. We met with local players (the San Francisco CIO and San Francisco City Hall teams, the US Director of Digital Economy, American start-ups and web giants, classical and non-academic universities and schools. classics) and the feds (we spoke with the US Secretary of Commerce last month). This is why the arrival of school 42 is excellent news.

So your enthusiasm is only business?

Julien barbier: Beyond the purely business question, we love the 42 school team. Xavier Niel, Florian Bucher, Nicolas Sadirac, Kwame Yamgnane and the 42 team are extremely brilliant people. We also share important values: our two schools are open to everyone, regardless of social level or level of study, and none of our students pay to access our quality education:

Our two schools also offer an answer to the problem of American student debt, which is colossal and which is becoming one of the greatest dangers to the American economy. We are talking about a bubble, hundreds of billions of dollars.

For all these reasons, we do not consider 42 to be a competitor and we even welcomed them.


Like these two models established in the United States, how do you plan to disrupt education?

Julien barbier : We have in France, I think, this chance to have both very good schools and “free” education. Contrary to some beliefs, our public and private universities train very good mathematicians and computer engineers. We have this reputation here in Silicon Valley for being very good programmers. Here you will find French people in all Tech companies, small, medium or large, and at all hierarchical levels. In addition, we have seen the birth of this new methodology at home, and we have therefore had the chance to understand it, and above all to experience it. It is no coincidence that among the co-founders of Holberton Scool and 42, you find alumni of Epitech.

The Americans did not wait for us to disrupt education. They’ve been working there for years. The bootcamp movement for example, which allows Bac + 4/5 (equivalent) to be trained in programming, was invented here. Today, bootcamps are all over the world, including in France. They do not only disrupt post-Bac education. A lot of new types of schools are constantly emerging, and for all ages and all disciplines. It is extraordinary to witness such a change and to be a part of it.

However, what model should be adopted to allow this rupture?

Julien Barbier: The stories of the two schools stand out a bit after that. We (Editor’s note: the founders of the Holberton School) are engineers who have been working for years in Silicon Valley. Sylvain Kalache worked at SlideShare and LinkedIn. For my part, I worked at Docker. We have this understanding of the American market and this network that we were able to use to adapt and evolve the methodology in the United States.

We realized how important the need for engineers was to create the products of tomorrow, and how catastrophic student credit was for both students and the US economy. We have therefore adapted the methodology by project and by peer to the context and culture of Silicon Valley, adding our DNA: the community. Because our school is not run by the co-founders, but by a community of more than 100 mentors, computer engineers who work at Facebook, Uber, Google, etc … and who voluntarily help us train the engineers of tomorrow .

School 42 was originally set up to respond to the French educational problem as well as to help France and young French people to train for the trades of today and tomorrow. In view of the first positive feedback from students and companies, Xavier and his team wanted to bring this education to as many people as possible, and where the need and the solution seemed to make the most sense. It makes great sense that they chose to duplicate the model in California.

Why not have created Holberton School in France, where the need for skills is just as important?

Julien Barbier: We started our business in the United States because that’s where we live and we know the market well. We have worked on it, created an extraordinary network of developers and it is also here that there is the greatest concentration of demand: 1 million people to be trained in 4 years. Added to this is the context of the problem of American student loans. So many challenges and significant business potential. For all these reasons, it made sense for us to launch out in San Francisco.

Since our launch, we have received many requests to open in France, and we have dialogued with several entrepreneurs and politicians. Although expatriates, Sylvain and I are very attached to France, it is a beautiful country with important social values ​​and extraordinary people. We would love to open one or more schools there in the medium term. It is possible, perhaps with a few adaptations.

School 42 has, it seems, the ambition to expand the Paris campus. What is more, with the opening of the Halle Freyssinet (renamed “Station F”, many opportunities will be possible between the school and the incubator.

Release date : september 2015

Number of applications: 1,300 (in 2 months)

Workforce: 40% female, 44% diverse, 60% not living in Silicon Valley

Ages: between 17 and 51 years old

Founders: Julien Barbier & Sylvain Kalache

Read also: Xavier Niel exports school 42 to Silicon Valley