TSL 2016 International Schools Essay Competition and Debate

Are Sustainable Cities Possible?

Global essay competition and debate invites schoolchildren to speak out for future generations and consider what the future holds for ‘sustainable cities’


The Trust for Sustainable Living is pleased to announce the 2016 Essay Competition Finalists & Honourable Mentions. Congratulations to all participating schools – the standard seems to be rising each year!

Primary Schools Category    Secondary Schools Category

TSL 2016 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, National Botanical Gardens, Victoria, Seychelles

The TSL 2016 International Schools Debate & Awards will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. All children who entered the Essay Competition are invited to participate in the Debates, accompanied by their Teacher Champions or designated responsible adults. Participants must cover their own travel costs.


Debate Programme, April 2016

REGISTER HERE for the Debate (deadline extended to 25th February)

Media Rotana Hotel Booking Form – TSL Discounted Rate

Useful Information for Attendees in Dubai (updated 29.01.16)

Debate FAQ’s

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 Competition and Debate Dates

1 September 2015 – School/Teacher registration opens

15 December 2015 – Closing date for essay submissions (and Schools Sustainability Challenge video entries)

15 January 2016 – Schools notified of winning Finalists and Honourable Mentions (Primary Schools Category and Secondary Schools Category) and invited to attend International Schools Debate and Awards in Dubai.

17-21 April 2016 – 2016 TSL International Schools Debates & Awards, hosted by Jumeirah English Speaking School, Dubai. In addition to the Primary and Secondary School Debates, which occur on separate days, we are organising a special programme of educational visits in and around Dubai – not to be missed! Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements (e.g. flights, transfers, accommodation, subsistence and miscellaneous costs). Charges apply for additional adults and non-participating children. Debate Programme   Debate REGISTER HERE (closing date extended to 25th February 2016)   Useful information for Attendees in Dubai (updated 29.01.16)   Debate FAQ’s 

encicla medellin singapore dubai

Congratulations to Raja Khan (Reading School, UK), who won the 2015 Grand Prize - a trip to the 2016 Schools Debates in Dubai, UAE next April

Raja Khan (Reading School, UK) accepted the 2015 Grand Prize at the Oxford Union, while Maia Jafar (JESS Jumeirah School, UAE) won 1st Prize in the Primary Schools Category




It is often said that the future is urban.

More than half of the world’s 7.3 billion people currently live in cities. By 2050, we expect it will be more than two-thirds.

Like them or not, cities matter. But what will cities look like in the future, and what impact will they have on the rest of the planet?

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 – 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 Prize, Primary Schools Category

The Trust for Sustainable Living is pleased to announce that the theme of the TSL 2016 International Schools Essay Competition and Debate is: Are Sustainable Cities Possible? 

Are ‘sustainable cities’ just wishful thinking or can we make them a reality … and if so, how?

Schoolchildren around the globe (age 7-17) are invited to put their thoughts into words and submit their essays before the 15th December 2015 deadline. (Note that the deadline is slightly earlier this year to allow for cooler weather at the Debates in Dubai.)


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. One overall Grand Prize Winner (plus Teacher Champion and Parent) will receive a free trip to the 2016 Debates & Awards in Dubai, hosted by the Jumeirah English Speaking School (17-21 April 2016), and prizes will be awarded for 1st to 5th Places in each category (Primary and Secondary). All participating schools will be invited to attend the Debates & Awards.

Highlights of the 2015 Debates and Awards

Essay Competition

For the 2016 competition, students are invited to write an essay outlining their thoughts on sustainable cities, in English, as follows:

Primary students (ages 7-11): Are sustainable cities possible? (max. 400 words)

Secondary students (ages 11-17): Are sustainable cities possible? (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 Prize 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 international debate on the future of sustainable cities. 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.)

Resources for Schools

To assist teachers and students in preparing for the competition and debate, we have prepared a page of supporting resources to help get started.

TSL 2016 Schools Sustainability Challenge

In addition to the essay competition, the Trust for Sustainable Living runs a parallel international contest 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 at the 2016 Debates & Awards in Dubai.

Enquiries & Updates

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

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

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