While web designing is not my main role anymore, as an overseer of numerous projects I still use my whip judiciously. We can all play a part. Singapore clients must ask for web standards and accessibility to be applied to their projects, so that agencies will realise there is a demand and bother to learn the stuff.
However, clients must know some code too - because some agencies will claim they do apply web standards, but when you look at their code there are tables (not for tabular data) and font tags (or something that obviously looks like a .style1 created in Dreamweaver). There are still vendors out there who design fancy bullet points by using a two-column table. They insist that they comply - 'But we do use CSS to colour the table background!' Be warned.
Singapore schools much teach students about web standards and accessibility. So far the only design students I've met who know about web standards, learnt it on their own. When it comes to the web, it isn't just a huge graphic that you splice into multiple cubes and plonk onto a web page. But I'm thinking the mindset is more like, 'Who cares, it's just more work and we have other projects to rush. Teacher won't grade us on our coding. It can work in IE, rite?'
I've spoken to people who are trying to adapt to web standards. You can tell who they are, as their code is a mix of valid CSS and tags embedded within HTML. These are the people we should encourage and teach. I'd call them the real 'transitionals'. They see some value in web standards but have told me that a lot of time is required for their designers to learn how to make the switch.
Well, I'd say in the long term, more time is saved. You will no longer need to re-code all your pages to change a visual element on all of them. You will no longer have to tell your server to generate print-friendly pages using a separate template. You will no longer have to design separate web pages that can be viewed on mobile devices, projectors, or be listened to by visually handicapped people.
Unless you're the type of agency who likes to charge by the amount of time spent on the project. I'm not impressed with that. A proactive, innovative agency could propose other useful features for the website and the client may take it on. Only an agency that's totally out of ideas will fall back on outdated coding techniques and do nothing else to help themselves. And we wouldn't want to hire them, would we?