UAE: This coding school is tuition-free, has no teachers, classrooms

Abu Dhabi - Students at 42 Abu Dhabi compete on real-world projects


Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Thu 14 Oct 2021, 2:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 31 Oct 2021, 10:26 PM

A new coding school is set to be a disruptive force in education - it is open 24/7, it has no classrooms or teachers, and students here compete on a variety of real-world projects instead of attending boring classes.

42 Abu Dhabi is an innovative concept built on the philosophy that everyone deserves a chance to explore one’s talent. This tuition-free school means no barriers and equal opportunities for all. Motivation to learn is what drives students forward.

Located in Abu Dhabi’s Mina Zayed warehouse district, the school is open 24/7. The purpose-built 42 Abu Dhabi warehouse campus, designed with an open space, new-age industrial feel, includes state-of-the-art coding labs using the latest technology, as well as a number of interactive smart spaces, meet-up lounges, an auditorium, creativity rooms, dining, and resting spaces. The school took its inaugural cohort of students in September 2021.

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Students have to attend in-person to learn from each other through collaborations in the huge labs, the heart of every 42 schools. The labs have 252 iMacs - one for each student.

The school aims to cultivate creativity, collaboration and self-discipline by giving students ownership of their learning without classrooms or teachers.

“We believe the best way to learn is from each other. Collaboration, communication, and problems-solving are only some of the fundamental skills students will learn through our peer-to-peer learning model,” Leonardo Filardi, CEO of 42 Abu Dhabi, told Khaleej Times during a media tour on Wednesday.

“The school’s curriculum is based on three methodologies, project-based learning, peer-to peer learning, and gamification, where students earn points as they move through the program. To progress through the curriculum, students must rely on the group to share and adapt information based on collective intelligence.”


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No coding experience needed

Marcos Muller-Habig, Chief Technology Officer at 42 Abu Dhabi, says the school is open to anyone aged 18 and above, and candidates don’t require previous coding experience or academic qualifications.

“Successful 42 Abu Dhabi students have ambition and aptitude. They are committed, proactive, curious, creative and adaptable. The school attracts the best regional talent from a diverse range of backgrounds and nationalities,” he said.

As part of the selection process for 42 Abu Dhabi’s inaugural cohort, 401 candidates took part in a trio of pre-selection ‘Piscines’ between May and August. A pool of 225 candidates successfully passed the 26-day immersive motivation, endurance, and commitment tests and joined 42 Abu Dhabi on 26 September 2021.

Emiratis comprise 43 per cent of the inaugural cohort. Of them, almost three quarters (70 per cent) are women. Expatriate student enrolment stands at 57 per cent. Almost all (93 per cent) of the students live in the UAE. Of the total number, 60 per cent are men and 40 per cent women. More than three quarters (81 per cent) are aged 18-30.

Enrollment requires registration and an online pre-selection assessment that evaluates cognitive capacity via logic and memory tests. Successful pre-selection candidates are then invited to the ‘Piscine’, from which candidates will be invited to join the programme.

Allan Joe, 24, an Indian student at 42 Abu Dhabi says he thought of coding since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the importance of technology.

“I reflected on my past and realised that I didn’t explore coding during college. And as I figured out that it was important for me, I found about 42 Abu Dhabi and used the opportunity to join,” Joe told Khaleej Times.

“When I got into the Piscine, which is a 26-day intensive boot camp, I realised that coding was enjoyable especially the peer-to-peer part of the programme. In many of the programmes, you have to work with others to solve problems. You have to learn by yourself as there are no teachers giving you lectures. You need to go online, figure out things on your own or try to work out with somebody who has figured it out.”

Another student, Anastasiia Nifantova, a Russian national, says she had no prior knowledge of coding, but 42 Abu Dhabi is providing her with a practical base for a healthy and abundant exchange of ideas and learning by collaborating with other students.

“You need to work with others and have to self-learn. It such an enjoyable school as every day is a new day, new challenge..,” she said.

42 Abu Dhabi is the first GCC campus of the internationally renowned 42 Network of coding schools, which opened its inaugural complex in Paris in 2013. The school has been established in partnership with Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK) under the Ghadan 21 accelerator programme.


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