2015 International Schools Essay Competition and Debate

My Vision for Sustainability Education

Global essay competition invites schoolchildren to share their ideas for the future of sustainability education, and how we can achieve them

CONGRATULATIONS to this year’s winning Finalists and Honourable Mentions from 43 countries!

Primary School Winners (ages 7-11)

Secondary School Winners (ages 11-17)

Representatives from all participating schools are warmly invited to join us at the 2015 International Schools Debate & Awards this July (7-10 July, 2015) in Oxford, England, with side trips to London, the Living Rainforest and the surrounding region. Provisional ProgrammeRegistrationAccommodation. FAQs.

The 2014 Winners - Chinyere Ogbo (Emmaus and Ignatius Home School, Nigeria) won the 2014 Grand Prize, and Ismael Costa (St. George's School, Uruguay) won 1st Place in the  Primary Schools Category.

The 2014 Winners visiting Oxford University Botanical Gardens – Chinyere Ogbo (Emmaus and Ignatius Home School, Nigeria, right) won the 2014 Grand Prize, and Ismael Costa (St. George’s School, Uruguay, left) won 1st Place, Primary Schools Category

The fundamental importance of education in achieving a sustainable future was recognised by the UN General Assembly when it declared 2005-2014 the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.

UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, was charged with leading the UN’s efforts and supporting countries in implementing Education for Sustainable Development. Since then, different nations have attempted to develop sustainability education programmes, with differing degrees of support and success.

As the Decade now draws to a close, and based on their own experiences, we are inviting schoolchildren around the world to share their personal visions for the future of sustainability education and their ideas on how to achieve them.

Schools in 73 countries participated in the 2014 essay competition and we are hoping for even greater participation in 2015.

Living Rainforest at Rio+20: Nardos Tilahun (Grand Prize Winner 2012), centre, with Esther Graham (Teacher Champion) to her left, and Eshetu Waldemariam (Nardos's father) and Karl Hansen (Living Rainforest director) to her right.

Living Rainforest at Rio+20 in Brazil, with Nardos Tilahun (Auckland Girls Grammar School, New Zealand, centre), Grand Prize Winner 2012

The competition and debate are aimed at primary students (ages 7-11) and secondary students (ages 11-17) and their teachers in both formal and home schools. Trophies for 1st to 5th Places will be awarded in each category (Primary and Secondary) and one overall Grand Prize Winner (plus Teacher Champion and Parent) will receive a free trip to the 2015 TSL International Schools Debate & Awards in the UK (7-10 July 2015). All participating schools will be invited to attend the Schools Debate and Awards and related events.

Essay Competition

Students are invited to write an essay outlining their vision for the future of sustainability education, in English, as follows:

Primary students (ages 7-11): My vision for sustainability education (max. 400 words)

Secondary students (ages 11-17): My vision for sustainability education and ideas on how to achieve it (max. 600 words)

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (pictured here at Rio+20) received the Winners' essays from the 2012 competition, 'Dear Mr. UN Secretary General...'.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon (pictured here at Rio+20) received the Winners’ essays from the 2012 competition, ‘Dear Mr. UN Secretary General…’.

An international panel of judges, drawn from experts and educationalists in the field, will select the winning entries for each age category. The essays will be judged for originality and creative thinking and the potential to contribute to a broad-ranging and constructive debate on Education for Sustainable Development. The winning essays will be published on the competition website.

For each category, schools are invited to submit up to 30 essays online. (These must be submitted by the Teacher Champion, using the login details provided at registration. We regret that paper and emailed copies cannot be accepted, and essays more than 10% over the word limit will be automatically rejected.)

International Schools Debate & Awards

2013 prize winners at the Southern Hemisphere Schools Debate, Seychelles National Botanical Gardens, Victoria, Mahe (July 2013)

Participants at the 2013 Southern Hemisphere Schools Debate, Seychelles National Botanical Gardens, Victoria, Mahe (July 2013)

The TSL 2015 International Schools Debate & Awards will take place at the world-renowned Oxford Union debating society in Oxford, England. Each school will be represented by a team of up to two students, plus one Teacher Champion. Aside from the Grand Prize Winner, each participating school must cover its own costs.


Attendees at the 2014 Schools Debates visited Oxford University as part of a special one-day educational excursion.

Attendees at the 2014 Schools Debates visited Exeter College, Oxford as part of one-day educational excursion.

Key Dates

16 September 2014 – School/Teacher registration opens

1 February 2015 23 January 2015 (extended due to popular demand)  – Closing date for essay submissions (and Schools Sustainability Challenge entries)

23 March 2015 – Schools notified of Finalists and Honourable Mentions and invited to attend International Schools Debate and Awards (see winners lists above).

7-10 July 2015 – 2015 TSL International Schools Debate & Awards, Oxford, UK. In addition to the primary and secondary debates, which occur on separate days, we are organising a special programme of educational visits in and around Oxford, London and the Living Rainforest – not to be missed! Participation in the Debate & Awards and additional visits is free, however participating schools or families are responsible for their own travel arrangements including all flights, transfers, accommodation, subsistence and miscellaneous costs. Provisional ProgrammeRegistration (deadline: 17 June 2015). Accommodation (PDF, 233kb). FAQs.

Resources for Schools

To assist teachers and students in preparing for the competition and debate, supporting resources for schools will be made available on the competition website in advance of the submission deadline.

Introducing the ‘Schools Sustainability Challenge’

This year, in addition to the essay competition, the Trust for Sustainable Living is launching a parallel international contest for schools called the Schools Sustainability Challenge. Teacher Champions are invited to submit short videos showcasing their schools’ best sustainability projects. Schools are welcome to participate in both contests. The Challenge winners will be announced during the Awards Cermony in July.

Enquiries & Updates

Subscribe to our newsletter (using the form in the sidebar), to receive periodic updates and announcements about the competiition.

Email queries should be directed to: schools[AT]livingrainforest.org

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