Singapore's first free, teacher-less computer science programme to be launched by 2022

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing giving a speech at the SUTD-Ecole 42 MOU signing ceremony on Nov 23, 2021.
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing giving a speech at the SUTD-Ecole 42 MOU signing ceremony on Nov 23, 2021.PHOTO: SUTD

SINGAPORE - People can expect to sign up for Singapore's first free, teacher-less computer science programme by 2022.

Offered by French non-profit university Ecole 42 and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), the course will be open to anyone aged 18 and above, regardless of their background in coding or mathematics.

Supported by SkillsFuture Singapore, the new programme - dubbed 42 Singapore - aims to develop a pipeline of tech talent for the digital economy.

Instead of classroom-based lessons delivered by lecturers and textbooks, students will learn tech skills in areas such as cyber security and network infrastructure at their own pace, advancing through project-based learning and gamification.

The first cohort of 150 students under the new programme in Singapore is expected to start by the end of 2022, with recruitment done through one or more admissions exercises a year, said SUTD in a statement on Tuesday (Nov 23).

Admissions at Ecole 42 schools are highly competitive, with applicants being selected after an intensive four-week bootcamp known as the "Piscine" or French for swimming pool.

The brainchild of French businessman and billionaire Xavier Niel first opened in Paris in 2013, and has since grown to a network of 36 campuses worldwide.

At the signing of an agreement between the two universities on Tuesday, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing said the programme's emphasis on aptitude and skill-based admission is in line with the spirit of new policies rolled out by the Ministry of Education.

He said: "Since last year, the autonomous universities (in Singapore) have expanded their practice of aptitude-based admissions.

"They are now relying less on academic grades, and more on other yardsticks of merit such as the interests and non-academic achievements of applicants, so that a more holistic range of aptitude and attributes can be considered."

The partnership with Ecole 42 has been in the making since November 2019, Mr Chan said.

Hailing the French university as a trailblazer in innovation, he lauded the curriculum for bringing together students from different backgrounds and training them with in-demand skills and industry knowledge through real world projects.


Education Minister Chan Chun Sing (second from right) at the SUTD-Ecole 42 MOU signing ceremony on Nov 23, 2021. PHOTO: SUTD

He called for more of such innovative models of teaching being applied for training in other sectors beyond the information communications technology sector.

Highlighting that the Covid-19 pandemic has restricted cross-border exchanges, Mr Chan said he is looking forward to further discussions between France and Singapore on how to resume student exchanges and more avenues to preserve interactions between students and faculty.

Ambassador of France to Singapore Marc Abensour, who also witnessed Tuesday's event, said that Singapore had about 500 students studying in France before the pandemic.

Reaffirming the long-standing relationship between the two countries in higher education, Mr Abensour called for closer collaboration in upskilling and reskilling their workforces.

Students at 42 Singapore will have access to workshops, events and competitions organised by the SUTD community.

In its statement, SUTD said it is still seeking industrial partnerships to co-support the new 42 Singapore programme.