2014 International Schools Essay Competition and Debate

What does ‘sustainable living’ mean to you?

Global essay competition invites schoolchildren to outline their ideas for sustainable living and the steps needed for societies to achieve them. This year, Teacher Champions from 73 countries participated and we received essays from 1,094 children.


Schools Debate attendees visiting Exeter College, Oxford University (July 2014)

Congratulations to all Finalists, Honourable Mentions and Teacher Champions:

PRIMARY SCHOOLS 2014 by Country (PDF, 250 kB)

SECONDARY SCHOOLS 2014 by Country (PDF, 290 kB)



The 1st to 5th place winners of the TSL 2014 International Schools Essay Competition were announced at the International Schools Debates and Awards held in the UK (July 8-11):

Secondary Schools

Grand Prize and 1st Prize: Chinyere Ogbo (Emmaus & Ignatius Home School, Nigeria)
2nd Prize: Kavya Deshpande (United World College South East Asia, Singapore)
3rd Prize: Dominique Dina (English River Secondary, Seychelles)
4th Prize: Jaya Sepion-Earp (Cavendish School, UK)
5th Prize: Ruby Guo (High Technology High School, USA)

Read the Top 5 Secondary School Essays

Primary Schools

1st Prize: Ismael Costa (Saint George’s School, Uruguay)
2nd Prize: Asher Borthwick (Port Ellen Primary, UK)
3rd Prize: Katarzyna Pilecka (Wladyslaw Szafers Primary No 4, Poland)
4th Prize: Fatima Abbas (Pakturk International Schools & Colleges, Pakistan)
5th Prize: Rheas Panda (Garodia International Centre for Learning, India)

Read the Top 5 Primary School Essays

The winners of the 2014 International Schools Debates were:

Best Individual Contribution

Primary Schools: Asher Borthwick (Port Ellen Primary School, UK)

Secondary Schools: Anej Sarlah (Ekonomska sola Celje, Slovenia)

Best Group Contribution

Primary Schools: Luca Matta (JESS Jumeirah, UAE); Jona Cordonier Gehring (Kings College School, UK); William Barclay (Kings College School, UK); Hassan Mithani (Kings School Dubai, UAE)

Secondary Schools: Jehan Omer Sholgami (King Fahad Academy, UK); Mariia Lukashenko (Humanitarian Gymnasium #1, Ukraine); Hudaifa Mohamed (Cranford Community College, UK); Anej Sarlah (Ekonomska sola Celje, Slovenia); Abhay Singh (Emirates International School Jumeirah, UAE); Dominique Dina (English River Secondary, Seychelles)


Cho Su bin, Grand Prize Winner 2013 (centre)

Cho Su bin, Grand Prize Winner 2013 – SEC English School, South Korea (centre)

For the last quarter of a century, there has been much talk around the world about the need for ‘sustainable development’. But when it comes down to our own lives, what does ‘sustainable living’ actually mean?

We are inviting schoolchildren around the world to tell us what ‘sustainable living’ means to them, and the steps which they believe their countries should be taking in order to achieve it. Whether it’s the food we eat, how we get around, where we work, what we buy, or some other dimension of how we live … ‘sustainable living’ means different things to different people. As a child in your country, what does it mean to you?

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: 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.

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. First to Fifth Prizes will be awarded in both categories and one overall Grand Prize Winner (plus Teacher and Parent) will receive a free trip to the 2014 International Schools Debate in the UK (if the winner is from the UK, an alternative may be organised). All participating schools will be invited to participate in the International Schools Debate and related events in the UK during July 8-11, 2014.


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

Essay Competition

Students are invited to write an essay in English, as follows:

Primary students (ages 7-11): What does ‘sustainable living’ mean to you? (max. 400 words)

Secondary students (ages 11-17): Outline your ideas for ‘sustainable living’ and the steps needed for societies to achieve them (max. 600 words)

A distinguished panel of judges, drawn from experts and educationalists in the field, will select the winning entries for each age category. The winning students will be awarded trophies at the International Schools Debate and their essays will be published on the competition website. Essays will be judged for comprehensiveness and clarity, innovative and creative thinking and the potential to contribute to a broad-ranging and constructive international debate (see scoring and judging criteria).

For each category, schools will be 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.)

International Schools Debate & Prize-giving

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)

This year, the International Schools Debate & Prize-giving will take place at the Living Rainforest centre in Hampstead Norreys, Berkshire, UK. 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.

Key Dates

Secondary school students at the International Schools Debate & Prize-giving, Living Rainforest, 27 June 2013

Secondary school students at the 2013 Northern Hemisphere International Schools Debate, Living Rainforest, UK, June 2013

15 October 2013 - School/Teacher registration opens

13 February 2014 – Closing date for essay submissions

2 April 2014 – Schools notified and invited to International Schools Debate – Primary School Finalists and Honourable Mentions, by Country (PDF, 250 kB) / Secondary School Finalists and Honourable Mentions, by Country (PDF, 290 kB)

8-11 July 2014 - International Schools Debate & Awards Ceremony, Living Rainforest, UK. In addition to the primary and secondary schools’ Debates, which occur on separate days, there will be a special programme of educational visits to London and Oxford (booking is free but participants are responsible for their own travel arrangements). Please register by June 16.  See the latest Programme (updated 4/July/2014)Travel directions.  Accommodation options near Newbury.

Resources for Schools

Winners' Trophies 2013

Winners’ Trophies 2013

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. Judging & scoring criteria.

Enquiries & Updates

Sign up here to receive periodic updates and announcements about the competition

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

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