South Africa Joins the Green School International Network

Back in 2008, Independent Education covered the opening of a special school in Bali. It was called the Green School Bali, a private and international pre kindergarten-high school located along the Ayung River near Abiansemal, Badung Regency, Bali, Indonesia. The school was founded by John and Cynthia Hardy. This famous school was lauded by architects and educationalists alike because of its open structure. described the school thus:

A range of architecturally significant spaces from large multi-storey communal gathering places to much smaller classrooms are a feature of the campus. Local bamboo, grown using sustainable methods, is used in innovative and experimental ways that demonstrate its architectural possibilities. The result is a holistic green community with a strong educational mandate that seeks to inspire students to be more curious, more engaged and more passionate about the environment and the planet.

Today the school is at the centre of a global network of eco-friendly private international schools called the Green School International. Co-founder Chris Edwards calls the first school, located near the Balinese village of Ubud, ‘a sustainably sourced, indoor-outdoor structure. It’s a holistic educational experience, combining the mental and the physical and the emotional.’

Cynthia Hardy has been building a unique syllabus for Green School International member schools since the start. It’s accredited by the Western Association of Schools and colleges, and, says, head of curriculum, Chris Edwards, ‘We’re actually addressing what we think are the biggest issues of our time’. Edwards led the development of the network’s second school in Taranaki, New Zealand.

The acronym REAL is a smart way to understand the schools’ approach. Edwards unpacks it this way:

  • Relational: All subjects are better taught in relation to the real-life environment.
  • Experiential: Don’t talk about it, do it.
  • Action-oriented: Rather than seeing education as a preparation for life, education is treated as part of living.
  • Local to global: If you can’t solve a problem in your own domain, don’t preach to others about it.

Additional project-based learning in the form of ‘Greenstone projects’ gives students the chance to examine challenges to do with climate change and other environmental and social justice issues.

Since inception, Green School Bali has seen a number of environmental warriors graduate. Dutch-Indonesian sisters Melati and Isabel Wisjen are famous for their Bye Bye Plastic Bags campaign, which they launched when they were aged 10 and 12 respectively. Since then they’ve addressed the United Nations, the World Economic Forum and a host of other forums and their initiative raised awareness of the need for a complete ban on plastic bags in Bali.

Another Green School International alumnus is Clover Hogan, a respected advisor on global warming. Former classmate Nicholas Saye is a suave producer of sustainable accessories, and Isami Said Rashid tours across the globe with his band to make people aware that the rainforests in Borneo are burning.

In February 2021, Green School International opened its third school in Paarl-Franschhoek in the Western Cape, South Africa. Its custodians are South Africans who had the good fortune to attend the Green School Bali.

Heading up Green School South Africa is Andy Wood, who welcomed 100 pupils, some local, and some from Europe and Japan, to the new campus. He’s bubbling with enthusiasm, saying: ‘Given the impact of COVID-19, it has been very encouraging. The pandemic has given a lot of parents cause to rethink their idea of education.’

Later this year, Green School Mexico will open its doors in Tulum.