March 20, 2014 | Contribution by
Luke Jordan is a Former Private Sector Development Specialist for the World Bank
School children doing morning exercises in Kunming, China.
Photo credit: Jeff Knezovich (http://www.flickr.com/photos/knezovjb/).
Is it possible that how governments go about generating, transmitting, and implementing information is at least as important as the policies themselves? Put another way: Could the source of the wealth of nations be learning to learn? A recent paper by Luke Jordan, who until late 2013 was a Private Sector Development Specialist for the World Bank, along with Sébastien Turban of Caltech and Laurence Wilse-Samon of Columbia University, contends that the answer is yes. Their study, which is a work in progress, proposes a new framework for studying the state of learning, highlighting the contrasting cases of China and India.
In an interview with Jordan – who has worked in the private sector in Shanghai and for the Bank in New Delhi – the JKP asks how a state’s ability to learn could make a difference. He points out that since 1978, China and India have undergone a massive divergence in growth and competitiveness, yet during those years they have often explored the same policies (like public administration reforms and Special Economic Zones). The difference, he says, is that in China, those policies have changed much faster and gotten better more quickly, thanks to the Chinese state's superior ability to learn.