School 42: single-purpose employability

Mention unemployment and immediately the debate comes to school. National education and college, not to mention dropouts, wouldn’t train enough for working life. The debate then goes on to praise the merits of the private sector and the public’s transition to an entrepreneurial culture.
Created in 2013 in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, at the initiative of Xavier Niel, founder of the access provider Iliad-Free, the 42* School says nothing else. And the message gets across to an audience spanning 26 countries and 44 partner campuses. About 15,000 students around the world take the course.
School 42, the sociologist François Sarfati recalls, aims to be an innovative, different, disruptive project. The public is mainly recruited from young people without a baccalaureate or holders of a baccalaureate degree that has been difficult to achieve, but also from students in a failure situation. Many had a first working life. In the beginning, the students were between 18 and 30 years old, an average of 23 years. Although there is no longer an age limit for opening up training to people in professional retraining, the profile is still very young. »


“Following the well-known example of Bernard Tapie, his colleague Camille Dupuy continues, Xavier Niel is part of the history of successful French entrepreneurs who invest in the social cause. More generally, it’s the fairly classic story of philanthropy that in the United States primarily finances universities, except that today, in a higher education sector under tension, the logic of the market prevails. Everywhere, the private sector strives to replace the state that is seen as failing. »

The School Under the Dictation of Neuroscience

In France, a quarter of higher education students entrust all their brains to the private sector. However, privatization and professionalization go hand in hand.
“Over the past ten years, François Sarfati notes, there has been a proliferation of schools selling students and parents of five years of studies that should guarantee access to work thanks to immediate operational knowledge, in line with expectations. However, companies that have others tomorrow However, we know that more general training provides greater adaptability and recovery.”

Even free and based on peer learning – a horizontal, participatory learning technique, with no lessons and no teacher – École 42 does nothing else. “The emphasis placed on knowledge with concrete content, says Camille Dupuy, is accompanied by a lack of relational skills. But what higher education really teaches future newcomers to professional life to see themselves differently than from the point of view of productive efficiency? »

Entrepreneur of his education

The free entrance to École 42 also comes with a price. “Volunteering within the school, the sociologist notes, is good preparation for free or low-paid internships for a few more lines on a resume like so many job promises. »
Collaborative and individualized learning at the same time, by making everyone an entrepreneur of their own education, of their employability, also reflects the deconstruction of wage labor that plagues the world of work.

The university has put the entrepreneurial culture to the test

“The statute and the associated social protection, resumes François Sarfati, only after getting a job. School 42 is another tool for going to work. Employment has become a totem. All government policy today revolves around it. Wauquiez, isn’t Macron going to tie the payment of the RSA to a few hours of work?? This is to forget the deeper difficulties of the beneficiaries. So only employment would make society. Behind this are other questions related to the quality of life, the environment, the social, etc. In short, these training courses reduced to immediate employability are not without consequences for the community of citizens. How, in fact, to act collectively with increasingly specialized training and the disruption of an increasingly competitive work community? »

These higher education institutions that are not recognized by the state train computer developers or programmer analysts in two or five years and issue certified titles with the Grande École du Numérique (GEN) label, a public interest group founded in 2015.

Jerome PilleyreRead . Camille Dupuy and François Sarfati,Governing by Employment, a History of School 42

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