Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Josef Korbel School of International Studies

First Advisor

Barry B. Hughes


Educational Transition, Global Education Forecast, Millennium Development Goal, Universal Basic Education, Universal Lower Secondary Education, Universal Primary Education


As an acknowledgment of the critical role of education in realizing other development targets, the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of the United Nations include education in a framework of development targets. The MDG targets for education include achieving universal primary education and gender parities in all levels of education by 2015.

Recent global campaigns have added to the momentum of the rapid progress of educational expansion, which began in roughly the 1960s. Countries with universal or near universal participation and completion in elementary education have started to look beyond primary, towards free and compulsory basic education- education up to lower secondary- for all their citizens.

This dissertation will explore the progress towards, and viability of, meeting current and potential global targets at various stages of basic education. It will answer questions such as: What path is the world on in terms of meeting the MDG goal of universal primary education? Which regions and countries are at risk of falling short of that target? How will lower-secondary education unfold in different regions of the world? Will there be any disparity between boys and girls as the countries expand their primary and lower-secondary education? What needs to be done to meet the current MDG for universal primary education and to move the global system towards universal lower secondary at the global, regional, and country level?

To find the answers, we developed a long-term educational forecasting model that represents the student and financial flows through the different levels of a formal educational system from primary to tertiary. The model is integrated within the broader International Futures model and represents the economic and demographic forces shaping the supply and demand of education. The broader International Futures system models the impacts of education on societal variables like fertility, productivity, and income, thus creating a feedback loop.

According to our analyses, most of the developing countries will continue their educational expansion at a speed faster than the speed that the developed countries showed when they were at a comparable stage of development. However, some of the developing regions will still be far away from universal participation or gender parity in primary and lower secondary, largely due to the low initial condition in these regions. Forecasts from the base case of our educational model show the pace of progress will not be sufficient to meet the education MDGs. Two of the world regions, sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia, might not be able to enroll all their children in elementary schools by 2015. These two and one other UNESCO region, the Arab States, do not see universal lower secondary education in the horizon even at 2020. In the base case, all UNESCO regions but two will reach or be close to gender parity in primary education by 2015. While the Arab States will be close to parity by 2030, the sub-Saharan African index will not reach parity until mid-century. Latin America and the Caribbean, on the other hand, might experience a reverse gender bias favored towards girls by 2015, but will re-approach parity later.

Lowering population growth will lessen the demand pressure in these countries and thus help them achieve better rates of participation in basic education. A better economy will help them spend more on education and thus get better results.

Exploration of the recent growth patterns in access to and progress in education convinced us that there is room for some acceleration of the progress in these areas. We have combined these findings to develop an aggressive but realistic normative scenario, where growth targets in educational flow rates, rather than an absolute coverage, are pursued.

Even with the improved results from the normative scenario, the world is unlikely to meet the 2015 MDG targets. However, the sub-Saharan African region, as a whole, would be sufficiently close to the target of universal primary education by 2020. All other regions meet the MDG of universal primary under the normative scenario, with South and West Asia just barely making it. Under the normative scenario, all but one world region, sub-Saharan Africa, reach 95 percent or higher gross participation rate in lower secondary by 2020. It is almost mid-century by the time sub-Saharan Africa reaches close to universal lower secondary.

Substantial progress in terms of gender parity will occur under the normative scenario despite the goal being explicitly pursued under the normative scenario. As girls in developing regions catch up with boys these regions reach close to gender parity in primary education around 2015. By 2020, exact parity is obtained in all regions. While the reverse gender parity extant in regions like Latin America and the Caribbean will start to slide back starting in the 2020s, a similar reverse parity starts to show up in sub-Saharan Africa around that time.

The transition to universal basic education is important for human development. It will take considerable time and efforts to complete the transition. While it is useful to coordinate the global efforts in making the transition, it is also important to take into account the differences across regions and nations in setting realistic targets and goalposts.


Recieved from ProQuest

Rights holder

Mohammod Taiyeb Irfan

File size

313 p.

File format





International law