Jõhvi Coding School to diversify the Estonian education scene

A group of Estonian entrepreneurs and education activists has launched a new school that helps solve the country’s growing demand for software developers.

Jõhvi Coding School is based on the internationally acclaimed 01 Edu platform and will open its doors in the fall of 2021. The school is aimed at students above the age of 18 who want to obtain a practical command in up-to-date software development. The capacity of the school will be 200 students per year.

There are no requirements to present a straight-A report card, a fancy resume or even programming skills. The students will be pre-selected based on a cognitive test, followed by a three-week admission course in the summer, called “selection sprint”. Those who pass the test period, will be admitted to the tuition-free, all expenses covered, intense programme during which the students solve computer-generated tasks. The 01 Edu system courses are set up similarly to computer games: the student can access the next level after successfully completing the previous one.

Although the school encourages the students to work in teams, they can each pick their own pace. Therefore, the completion of the programme can vary from one year to two. The students can choose between courses in databases, networks, software applications and interfaces, as well as user experience design.

Jõhvi to the rescue

After a long consideration, the perfect location for the new school was found in Jõhvi, smack in the middle of Ida-Viru County. In an era of remote work and study, it makes more sense to move further from the usual hotspots of Tallinn or Tartu. Even more importantly, it will help the easternmost region in Estonia to diversify its education scene and offer wider options for its current residents who want to broaden their horizons without moving away from home, as well as for those who might consider relocating to Ida-Viru for better options there.

The school will be in a former phone network switch building, currently inhabited by a data centre of cloud platform Pilw.io. Therefore, there is no question that the building has by far the best internet connection in the whole region. Besides coworking spaces and recreational areas, the building will house accommodation facilities for the students.

The school will be in a former phone network switch building. Photo by Ede Tamkivi.

Private donors seeded the project with over €700,000. Companies and organisations, such as Wise (formely TransferWise), SEB, LHV, Superangel, Bolt, Astrec Data, Pipedrive, the Estonian Founders’ Society, the Good Deed Education Foundation and Startup Estonia also support its opening. In addition, the school has received a €1.6 million government funding from the Ida-Viru regional development fund.

Solving a problem

The founders see Jõhvi Coding School as one of the solutions for the expanding gap between the capacity of Estonian vocational and higher education facilities to provide while demand for up-to-date software specialists just keeps growing as every field in the society becomes increasingly digital.

According to a recent OSKA report, the local ICT sector is already lacking 8,600 professionals. Yet only 978 students were accepted to IT-related courses at Estonian universities and 1,118 students started their studies at 12 vocational schools.

The studies have revealed that less than half of the vocational school students complete their studies. The drop-out rate from IT-courses at universities is also much higher than the average because many students find the curriculum too academic or it’s simply overwhelming to combine studying with working. Jõhvi Coding School aims to solve these issues by offering practical studies combined with internships at technology companies.

A rendering of Jõhvi Coding School, once the old building is renovated.

Although the school operates without lecturers, it will also be looking for dedicated and driven staff to assist students in their studying process. The school will announce a search for a principal and a community manager in a few weeks.

What is the 01 Edu system?

The 01 Edu system was founded by Nicolas Sadirac in 2018. Sadirac is a French computer scientist who, having himself graduated from several universities both in France and in the US, became disillusioned with existing pedagogical methods, and founded a completely new self-teaching method at École pour l’informatique et les nouvelles technologies in 1999.

In 2013 Sadirac and French entrepreneur Xavier Niel co-founded Ecole42, a school operating without professors that doesn’t require any diploma or previous knowledge of computing science. Its peer-based pedagogy encourages diversity and confrontation of ideas, and develops skills such as openness, responsibility, autonomy, collaboration ability, co-creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

The 01 Edu system was founded by a French computer scientist Nicolas Sadirac. Image by edu system.

The 01 Edu system is a step further, being more open and offering greater versatility, adaptable to a wide range of projects, aimed at both young people and professionals seeking digital conversion.

Open for admission

The Jõhvi Coding School is now open for admission. Anyone who is over 18 years old and has completed basic education can apply. Prior coding experience nor basic knowledge of the subject are necessary.

The school is tuition-free and studies will mostly be held in English, but supporting materials will be available in both Estonian and Russian. The summertime “selection sprint” will take place at the Ida-Virumaa Vocational Education Centre in Sillamäe – and so will initial studies until the school building is completed. Accommodation is provided for free both in Sillamäe and Jõhvi.

Cover: The founders of Jõhvi Coding School on the roof of a former phone network switch building that will house the school. Photo courtesy of Ede Tamkivi. * This article was originally published on 11 November 2020 and amended on 27 April 2021.

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