School against school

Often referred to as an innovative educational model, compatible with the objectives of equality of opportunity and accommodation of education to the needs of the economy, School 42 founded by Xavier Niel illustrates above all a regulation of the educational system by a private actor.

Adequationism under the magnifying glass

Criticism of the gap between the functioning of the French training system and the needs of the job market has been an antiphon of French public debate since the 1960s (Chapoulie, 2010). It has nevertheless redoubled its vigor in recent years during the increasingly acute crisis facing the University (Bodin and Orange, 2013).; Hugre and Poullaouec, 2022). the favor of the rise of this logic adequationist that is to say promoting the idea that the education system should calibrate its production of diplomasBased on the actual needs of the economic world, numerous metamorphoses have affected the space of higher education. It now structures the modalities of access and the logic of progression of the courses of almost all studentses, via the Parcoursup system.

Among the recent initiatives pushing this logic to its maximum, school 42, driven under the umbrella of CEO of Free Xavier Niel, aims to provide the sector in tension of IT into new talents. This is undoubtedly the initiative that has attracted the most attention in the French context to the point of becoming an international showcase of French know-how in terms of innovation and new technologies. Camille Dupuy and Franois Sarfati invite us to push the scope of this media institution for higher education in IT and to examine its operating logic through a sociological sieve in their recent book.

The book follows two objectives. First, it constitutes a formidable collection of information to document what School 42 actually is, and the logic that explains its creation and institutionalization. In the same way, the book returns at length to the logics which structure its pedagogy and how studying themare and teachersThey interact there, although it is precisely this point which differentiates the school from the rest of the training offer in higher education (42, there are no courses, no teacher, no classrooms). The materials are very diverse (interviews, ethnographic observations, press publications) and allow us to get a concrete idea of ​​what is at stake for the students.are, the teachersare and the promotersices of the institution in this particular training system.

Providing such an overview of an institution sensitive to its public image and charged on an ideological level as shown by the media reports coming from the President of the Republic in the premises of the school is far from trivial and constitutes in itself a salutary act of research.

Secondly, the ambition of the investigation is to use the analysis of the particular case of school 42 as a a heuristic (p. 24) which allows us to highlight certain movements structuring the relations between work and non-work, between training and employment, between individual protection and collective solidarity (p. 24). In other words, it is a question of analyzing School 42 as a magnifying mirror of transversal trends in higher education, in particular the promotion of the employment of students as the ultimate horizon of training regardless of the work, its meaning and its social utility. This review will focus more on this second dimension.

Substitute the state

For its creators, the concept from school 42 widely hack moreover, on other establishments which existed before it, in particular the Epitech school, would fill a void: that of high-level IT training in France. This supposed blind spot in public training policies is presented by the founder of the school as all the more problematic given that the digital sector is in increasing demand for qualified labor.

It is therefore with the perspective of supplementing a state presented by its creator as failing (p.41) and to respond to a pressing demand from the labor market that the project of Ecole 42 (founded Paris in 2013) initially took shape, which would then spread throughout France and beyond, with the creation of a network of around thirty schools replicating the initial concept.

As the authors point outices, this system is perhaps less disruptive than it appears, as it recalls the business schools which flourished in the bosom of large national industrial companies (Renault, Peugeot, etc.) before the 1970s, whose aim was to support technical transformations faced by these companies and to bring together a open lite and an esprit de corps within the employeeses (Hatzfeld, 1989). Indeed, it is first of all in symbiosis with the company of its main financier (Free) that the school is initially conceived, before becoming relatively independent. And, from this point of view, the concept of 42 appears to be part of a long-standing demand from employers to influence the calibration of the training system to adapt it to the needs of the industry.

If School 42 nevertheless distinguishes itself from these business schools, it does not position itself against the training system organized by the state, but presents itself as helping it, as substitute for public policies to fight against dropping out of school (p. 66). Presenting itself as a philanthropic response (p.39) from an enlightened entrepreneur coming to fill a gap in the strategic state in terms of training, the system of School 42 thus appears to be a perfect example of the effects of the no-liberalization of public action in the French context (p. 157).

The State, for its part, ensures certain arrangements which guarantee the sustainability of the structure as shown by the games on nomenclatures with Ple emploi to be able to ensure that people trained at school will be able to receive unemployment benefits (p. 208-213) or recognition by the State. of the label Great digital school (p. 54). And this commitment provides the entrepreneur with a real return on investment, as when X. Niel accompanies the President of the Republic on his recent diplomatic trip to Algeria or when the school is selected to participate in projects with the Minister of Culture as part of public-private partnership (p.54).

Training without education

In summary, the ambition of the institution is to go find talent among young people (in initial training or returning to study) with varied profiles (from the furthest from traditional school curricula to those who have had more straight paths) to give the computer code job market the driving forces it lacks ( p.34). Also, school 42 presents itself as an ideal-typical case of a training system in which the outcome and expectations in a professional context would constitute the only compasses to guide the content of what is transmitted.

And indeed, the training described in detail in chapter 5 appears more like a professional pre-socialization than a full-fledged course. Adaptation, consent to discipline or even acceptance of the injunction for extensive availability are at the heart of the training system, with a blurring of the boundaries between work and private life particularly highlighted during the famous tests of pool where students are askedes to resolve a series of problems within a given time while being available 24 hours a day (p. 192-200). Moreover, it is professional integration which marks the true end of the training period, with few students completing the course offered within the school walls (p. 226).

From the point of view of the philosophy of education, school 42 thus presents a major interest in that it presents a situation of training without education, that is to say where the responsibility for the content of what is transmitted, for the manner in which one transmits is completely diluted or even non-existent. It is therefore a school without (without predefined program (p. 154), without teachers (p. 162)) which unfolds before the eyes of the reader. The disciplinaryization of student behavior is largely delegated to the technological tools that govern training (access cards, computer logs, etc. which make it possible to trace student activity down to the minute (p. 182-191)) and is not or little assumed as such by the trainersices.

And, even if the pedagogy seems at first sight to rely on techniques well known to proponents of the new education (p. 164-165) such as learning by ascending training (ie by more advanced students) or by trial and error (ie by first person experimentation of students) here it is not at the service of any thought or ideal of social transformation and emancipation. These techniques are used here to serve the ultimate goal of training: maximizing employability. As a result, the analysis of the training system at Ecole 42 reveals the necessarily utopian character of any properly educational act (Drouin-Hans, 2004).

Think beyond the case

Finally, the reflections carried out during this fascinating investigation, although rich and inspiring, are also an opportunity to illustrate certain limits of the approach. per case and the difficulties of generalization it generates. The treatment of the gender issue here is exemplary. Concentrated in chapter 3 alone, it is too little articulated with the other dimensions of the analysis, sometimes giving the impression of being treated because it is an integral part of the case studied on the empirical level without being mobilized excessively as an analytical tool for dynamics broader than the illustrious case. For example, we know that female academic success is partly explained by the fact that female primary socialization predisposes them to better take advantage of the school form in terms of appropriation of implicit expectations (stability, concentration, temporal mastery) structuring this learning framework (Zazzo 1982; Lahire 2001). We could have wondered about the way in which questioning the traditional school framework observed in the 42 training system influences the possible underperformance of students. Gender would thus have been more directly integrated into the analytical framework and less treated as one dimension among others of the case study.

Although three schools in the network of schools 42 were analyzed by the two sociologists, one in Paris, the other in a country in northern Europe, the last in a big city de France (p. 23), it is mainly the Parisian case which serves as a reference in the demonstration. This bias which reduces interpretations to the French context also limits the generalization of the analyses. Indeed, the creation of the first school 42 was initially part of the French context and can be understood with regard to the (central) place of the French state in the regulation of the training system. The symbolic and material support received by X. Niel's initiative is also characteristic of the French approach in terms of neo-liberalism, where the state supervises and supports lmulation regulations (Amable, 2018). What meaning does this type of initiative have in another national context?? This comparative perspective would, in our view, allow us to better understand both the specificities and the scope of the analyzes carried out by the two authors.ices. How this government by employment What does the concept of school 42 depict? Does it resonate, for example, in national contexts where vocational training is more valued than in France, for example in Germany or Switzerland?

But these few remarks in no way detract from the quality of the empirical work and analyzes carried out in this book, which constitutes by its subject and the reflections carried out therein a work of great interest for better understanding the implications of equationism in education and training.