By John Viera, GreenBiz.com, March 30, 2012

“Pick up any newspaper these days and it won’t be long before you find an article that calls out some aspect of our coutnry’s education system in need of fixing. From the daunting numbers that are presented, this coverage, unfortunately, doesn’t seem overblown. .

The U.S. Department of Education’s most recent national assessment of high school seniors determined that 74% lacked proficiency in math, 62% lacked proficiency in reading, and 79% lacked proficiency in science.

In the last round of comparative international exams, American 15-year-olds ranked 25th inĀ  math, 17th in reading and 22nd in science among participating countries. Chinese 15-year-olds ranked first in each subject.

News about higher education isn’t much different. In 1990, the U.S. boasted the highest percentage in the world of 25- to 34-year-olds with college degrees, but had fallen to 12th by 2010. Meanwhile, there’s never been a greater need for college graduates. By 2018, 63 percent of jobs are expected to require at least some colleged education. Again, the numbers don’t tell a positive story; but there may be a silver lining.

When I was in school, specific education around the environment was an afterthought to traditional disciplines. Limited to conservation, education rarely integrated sustainability values with the realities of everyday living. From what I observe of candidates entering the workforce today, and in younger hires across the board, this has changed.

Over the last decade, high school students enrolled in advanced placement environmental science courses has skyrocketed 426 percent nationally, more than four times the average increase of all advanced placement courses. The figures are similar in higher education. On average, the number of academic papers on sustainability has doubled ever 8.3 years since 1974, according to a recent study from Indiana University.”

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