10/05/2013 03:04 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Shaping a Sustainable Future Through Education

For most, a good part of our lives is spent on pursuing education, formal or informal, from pre-school to post-graduate degrees. Some of our most vivid memories in life will invariably include the interactions we've had while in school; the shared experiences with friends and teachers, the fear of facing displeased parents when our grades fell below expectations and perhaps the relief at the end of each school term, which usually ushered the holidays in.

For some, the pursuit of education is excused from priority once the first job offer is secured and the 'rat race' begins. Yet if we consider the words of former South African President Nelson Mandela who argued that "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world," the value of education and its link to creating a sustainable future becomes distinctly clear.

The demographics of emerging markets such as Africa, the Middle East and Latin America are fast changing and education plays an important role in facilitating the change of guard in industry. Take working age population; by 2035, it is estimated that Africa will have more people of working age than either India or China. With the right skills, training and job opportunities, they can produce a sustainable consumer market. Absent the right jobs, we could observe a downward spiral into recession. Education must focus on employability as a driver of long-term economic growth.

Countries such as Singapore, with minimal natural resources, depend on the quality of its people to stay competitive. It has over the years invested heavily in developing a good ecosystem of technical education -- with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Similarly, among developing countries, effective education systems often go beyond academic achievement to focus on producing skills, encouraging group participation and promoting decisive thinking. The quality of education far outweighs the quantity of schooling.

Central to delivering quality education that has a tangible impact on the economy is the quality of the teacher. Teacher quality has been shown to bear a direct correlation to key economic indicators such as higher lifetime earnings, better learning outcomes, low teen pregnancy and female empowerment. This speaks to the role of teachers in improving learning outcomes, raising the overall bench-strength of a country's workforce and ultimately driving long-term economic growth.

It should also be remembered that corporations have a role to play in education and the development of local talent as pillars of the economy. This goes beyond the notion of corporate social responsibility to deliberate community partnership that enhances productivity and delivers sustainable return. As part of the Bank's commitment to Africa, Standard Chartered recently announced a partnership with The Varkey GEMS Foundation to empower a new generation of African teachers, the primary phase being rolled out to fund the training of 100 teachers in Uganda. Similar partnerships with a good number of educational institutions are already in existence in many of the markets where Standard Chartered operates. Included is the Bank's global community programme, Goal, aimed at equipping adolescent girls from deprived areas with skills to make them economically and financially empowered.

A skilled workforce sustains a country's long-term economic growth through cycles. The harnessing of skill, both cognitive and practical, is implicitly linked to educational quality and an enlightened teaching community. What you know matters, and in a fast changing world, the continued pursuit of education becomes more critical. As Benjamin Franklin rightly suggested, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." Enlightened teachers shape the future of nations.

In honor of World Teacher Day, HuffPost Impact in partnership with The Varkey GEMS Foundation will devote one month to stories highlighting the need for global change -- including staggering statistics, student anecdotes that put a face on these numbers, and teachers making a difference.

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