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 Winners of its 2016 International Schools Essay Competition and Debates. We received a record 1,115 essay entries from 57 counties, and welcomed over 200 people to the Debates & Awards in Dubai. The standard of dialogue and learning is rising every year – congratulations to all participating students, teachers and schools!

j'nae peart

J’Nae Peart (Immaculate Conception High School, Jamaica) collected the 2016 Grand Prize for her essay on sustainable cities at the TSL Schools Debates & Awards, while Ella Nijkamp (JESS Jumeirah Primary School, UAE) won 1st Prize in the Primary Schools Category. 200 children, teachers and parents from 17 countries participated in this year’s Debates & Awards.

PRIMARY SCHOOL Finalists and Honourable Mentions – Top 5 Primary Essays

SECONDARY SCHOOL Finalists and Honourable Mentions – Top 5 Secondary Essays

Media Release on Essay Competition Award Winners


TSL 2016 International Schools Debates, Awards & Visits

Uwhetu Obadiah-Frankin (Chrisland Secondary School, Nigeria) collected the Best Individual Contribution medal at the 2016 Secondary Schools Debate on 19th April. She is pictured here visiting Dubai Sustainable City with her Teacher Champion and mother.

Uwhetu Obadiah-Frankin (Chrisland High School Abuja, Nigeria) won the Best Individual award at the 2016 Secondary Schools Debate. She is pictured here (centre) on a tour of Dubai Sustainable City with her mother (left) and Teacher Champion (right).

The TSL 2016 International Schools Debates & Awards took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (17-21 April 2016). Over 200 students, Teacher Champions and parents attended, representing schools in 17 countries.

Media Release on Debate Winners

Photo Highlights from the Debates (on Facebook)

TSL Int’l Schools Debates, Awards & Visits Programme (April 2016)

Teacher Champion Workshop on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) – including links to presentations

Teacher Champions at a special workshop on international initiatives in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)

Teacher Champions at a special workshop on international initiatives in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) – one of a number of events for teachers at the Debates, Awards & Visits in Dubai

Biographies of Presenters and Special Guests

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 Debates & Awards.

17-21 April 2016 – TSL 2016 International Schools Debates & Awards, Dubai (kindly hosted by Jumeirah English Speaking School). In addition to the Primary and Secondary School Debates, participants enjoyed a special programme of visits to Masdar City, Dubai Sustainable City and the Dubai Energy and Water Authority, plus a series of interactive exchanges or workshops on education for sustainable development (ESD) for Teacher Champions. Debate, Awards & Visits Programme   Register Here to Attend   Useful Information for Attendees   Debate FAQ’s

encicla medellinsingaporedubai




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 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 before 15th December 2015. (The deadline is slightly earlier this year to allow for cooler weather at the Debates in Dubai.)

The annual competition and debate are aimed at primary students (ages 7-11) and secondary students (ages 11-17), supported by Teacher Champions in both formal and home schools. One overall Grand Prize Winner (plus Teacher Champion and Parent) is awarded a free trip to the Debates & Awards, £500 spending money and the Grand Prize Trophy, while Prizes are awarded for 1st to 5th Places in each category (Primary and Secondary). All participating schools are invited to attend the Debates, Awards & Visits.

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.

To access resources from previous competitions dating back to 2011, use the menu bar at the upper left hand side of this page.

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

Subscribe to our newsletters

About our charity

Learn more about the work done by The Trust for Sustainable Living... Read more