For the majority of us, including myself, it is difficult to get a job without a tertiary education. Getting into a university is not equally easy for everyone, more so for an elite university. Apart from curricular and extracurricular requirements, there is the tuition fee, which can be exorbitantly high for people from lower income group. Even if you manage to get past all that, there is still the challenge of learning subjects you have no interest in just to graduate with distinction which, at least in Malaysia and from personal experience, is commonly the deciding factor for a job offer. All these challenges and frustrations commonly discourage people from acquiring a tertiary education.
But what if there was an institution that has no application requirements, no tuition fees and a distinct education system that allows you to choose your own interests. Nestled inside Sunway Future X, an institution called 42KL offers exactly those things. 42 is an institution that originates from France and 42KL shares their free for all philosophy. Here in Malaysia, 42KL is funded and backed by Sunway Education Group, Jeffrey Cheah Foundation, iLabs Sunway, and Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) Sdn Bhd. The support is further strengthened by the partners who came on board like DHL, Carsome, Tenaga Nasional and Standard Chartered to name a few.
42KL is a coding institution, thus you will be developing a career as a programmer. There are no pre-requisites to apply for the programme. This means you don’t need to have any academic qualifications like SPM, STPM, or Diploma. Furthermore, you also don’t need any knowledge or experience in coding as the programme will start from the very basics before moving on to advanced stages.
Jeff Sandhu, the head of 42KL, said “a candidate who took part in the 26-day Piscine that had zero knowledge in coding was able to build an efficient automated solutions to problems like Sudoku, Kakuro and other logic puzzles. This same knowledge can be applied to improve efficiency in terms of traffic congestions or even to build routing algorithms used by logistics and mobility companies like DHL, Carsome and etc.”
Basically, it is open to just about anyone 18 years or older and residing in Malaysia.
Now, even though it is open to anyone, not everyone who applies will be accepted into the programme. For the selection process, you will first need to sit for a logic test during the application process. Passing that, you will move on to a 28 days, 7 days a week, 15 hours a day boot camp known as the Piscine (the pool). Since the programme is tuition free, the institution wants to make sure that only those that truly deserve this opportunity make it through. If you manage to successfully complete the Piscine, you will be enrolled into their 18-month programme.
During the media brief on 21st January 2022, Jeff and his team provided us with a sample of the logic test. However, it was heavily simplified with only three levels and there were ample hints given which are not provided for the candidates. It was basically a puzzle game, where we had to assign directions to an arrow to collect all the stars on the grid with a limited number of moves. Just like with any puzzle game there is some trial and error involved to figure out what each function does. I managed to complete all three levels with ease (I would have completed it sooner if my iMac didn’t keep hanging) while some of my other media peers had to work in teams to figure it out.
42KL also incorporates a different learning system from what is commonly found in universities in Malaysia. Firstly, there are no teachers or tutors, instead, 42KL uses a peer-to-peer learning, teaching and evaluation system. As a result, there are no classes or timetables like in a conventional university.
The highlight of the institution is the syllabus and curriculum, or lack thereof. You will instead be given projects derived from the industry, with the projects constantly being updated to reflect new advancement in the information technology (IT) and computer science space. You are free to choose projects with your interested field of focus and 42KL will keep track of your skill set as you complete the projects. Because of the peer-to-peer learning model, you are encouraged to work in teams to share and brainstorm ideas to overcome the challenges. However, you are free to fly solo if you so choose, but do note that you’ll be limiting yourself to your own knowledge.
In order to bolster peer-to-peer learning and motivate teamwork, there is no option to study from home as their system and server is not accessible remotely. You can code on your personal computer, but you would have to submit your work via the iMac at the campus. Some saving grace is that 42KL opens as early as 7am and closes as late as 11pm, so with good time management, there will be enough time to get your projects done.
The grading system is unique as well, which takes inspiration from video games. This means you will need to gain experience points (XP) from completing projects and evaluating your peers to progress to the next stage or level. This would be the equivalent of getting a passing grade point average (GPA) before you can move on to the next semester.
Studying there is also free as they provide every learning resource, from computers to reference materials, needed to complete the programme. Typically, these things would cost a fortune for parents from lower income groups, discouraging them from sending their kids to pursue higher studies. However, students are responsible for arranging their own accommodation and meals. My suggestion for affordable meals is to use the link bridge to access the canteen at Sunway University. Students are also free to use the other facilities at 42KL like meeting rooms equipped with whiteboards and projectors.
However, this does raise a fair question – how can I be sure I am learning the correct facts and methods when there is no qualified tutor? Well last year in the Global Ecological Hackathon, out of the 35 teams from around the world, the team from 42KL placed second. The team created a machine learning programme to identify different types of plankton within 48 hours without having any prior knowledge in machine learning.
Now, 42KL has no intentions of competing with conventional universities and their established education systems. It instead aims to provide an alternative means to those that were denied a formal tertiary education. However, because it doesn’t follow the traditional university structure, 42KL cannot be accredited by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA). Therefore, you will not be issued a graduate certificate like you do when you graduate from an accredited university. You will only be issued a certificate of completion by Sunway Education Group.
That being said, you can get a job at any one of 42KL’s partner companies as the certificate will be recognised, but you have zero obligations to join their partner companies and are free to choose any company you wish to provide your expertise to. In this case, 42KL will speak to the employer on your behalf and explain your academic achievements, but it is not guaranteed that you will get an offer.
So, if you would like a chance at an IT career and have exhausted all other options, you will lose nothing by giving 42KL a chance.
For more information you can head over to 42kl.edu.my.