My Inspirational Teacher: by Western Union President Hikmet Ersek

Picture: World Economic Forum

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post on September 28, 2012

The teacher who inspires me is my wife, D Nayantara Ghosh Ersek, who is a professor of cross-cultural competencies. For the past 16 years, with remarkable dedication, passion and humility, she has been challenging me to raise my game. The best teachers always do. She is tough, and I might not always be the more attentive student but her lessons are clear.

Better education leads to a better life. We need new ways of teaching for a new age. That includes new technologies and a focus on global citizenship, which is the defining feature of our increasingly interconnected world.

These themes are reflected in our business. Western Union uses new technologies to serve the hyper-connected and highly mobile workforce of 200 million people across the world who live outside their countries of origin. Education is a major reason that Western Union customers send money, to pay for the tuition fees of loved ones, and I believe it is the surest path to financial inclusion.

That’s why I am so proud of Western Union’s Education for Better programme, in which the Western Union Foundation pledges $10,000 per day for three years in potential grant funding for education. These funds can help address the teacher shortage, improve curricula, provide supplies and support one million days of school through the recently launched Western Union PASS initiative.

Yet, our approach to education needs to continually evolve as the world evolves. Let’s equip students with the latest technology for the future, even as we encourage communities to educate the next generation in their own traditional ways.

This belief that the private flow of funds can be highly democratic and empowering is behind Western Union’s pledge to find new ways to help governments and NGOs move more money for education – more reliably – where it is needed most so it can be spent in ways that make sense locally.

With Education for Better and a new Clinton Global Initiative commitment, we aim to directly serve more than 1,000 educational institutions and NGOs by 2015 and help them move more than $1 billion in principal for education.

Why? Education is powerful. It is the key to change. UNESCO reports that each extra year of school increases individual income an average of 15%. In most nations, this translates into a 1% increase in annual GDP. However, education gets just 2% of development aid globally. That doesn’t make good economic sense.

That’s why Western Union is joining other corporate leaders as a founding member of the Global Business Coalition for Education. I was at the UN and applauded the Education First initiative. I hope you will get involved. Together, we can improve education, which is one key to financial dignity for all.