The majority of young people find it difficult to decide whether to enter vocational education and training (VET) or higher education (HE) after leaving school. This is partly due to the many myths about HE and VET that circulate in society and politics. The Bertelsmann Stiftung and the CHE Centre for Higher Education have teamed up to analyse ten common myths surrounding post-secondary education.

A number of myths have become entrenched in the public perception of post-secondary education in Germany. This applies to both VET and HE. A common misconception is that the record number of students is the only cause of the shortage of apprentices. However, a joint fact check by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the CHE Centre for Higher Education comes to a different conclusion.

According to their findings, it is not enough to attribute the current shortage of apprentices in Germany solely to the growing popularity of HE. A comparison of enrolments in VET and HE shows that the demographic decline is affecting both vocational and academic education. For example, the number of new apprentices fell from 733,000 to 660,000 between 2011 and 2021. But the same is true of the number of new entrants to HE: their – even more modest – number fell from 519,000 to 470,000 over the same period. What is more, none of the three occupational groups with the highest proportion of unfilled training places are in direct competition with an academic study programme. These are plumbers, sales assistant in the food trade, and butchers.

Education and training myths meet insecure young people

The widespread myths and misconceptions, including the claim that “only academics earn really well”, resonate with a young generation, many of whom feel insecure. Many find it difficult to make decisions about their future education at the end of their school career. This is shown by the results of a representative youth survey published by the Bertelsmann Stiftung in August. According to the survey, 55 per cent of the young people interviewed said they felt sufficiently informed, but were unable to find their way through the plethora of information.

“Misinformation about studying and training can lead to wrong decisions. This can leave young people feeling very frustrated. They miss out on opportunities and feel that they have wasted their time and energy. Moreover, given the shortage of skilled labour, it is also important for society as a whole to give young people the best possible support in choosing the right career. No one should get lost in the transition from school to the world of work,” remarked Caroline Schnelle, VET expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung.

Post-secondary forms of education more flexible than often assumed

Openness and flexibility are important when choosing a career. But this is undermined by another myth: “After school, you have to decide between higher education and vocational education and training – then your future career path is set in stone.” “This misconception persists, but it’s simply not true,” Ulrich Müller stressed. “In post-secondary education, there is an increasing number of transitions in both directions,” stated the Head of Policy Studies at CHE. “A good policy ensures that facts, not myths, are heard. And at state and federal level, it uses all the means and channels at its disposal to spread innovative models of cooperation between vocational and academic education. In the face of skills shortages, it is now up to all policymakers to see the bigger picture and act as bridge-builders to ensure that no one gets lost between systems,” urged Ulrich Müller.

All ten analysed myths surrounding VET and HE can be found in the joint Bertelsmann Stiftung and CHE fact check at the following link.


About the method:

Zehn Mythen rund um Ausbildung und Studium – Faktencheck nachschulische Bildung” (Ten myths surrounding vocational education and training and higher education – Fact check on post-secondary education) is a joint publication by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the CHE Centre for Higher Education. The data come from sources such as education reporting, the database of the Federal Statistical Office of Germany and statistics from the Federal Employment Agency. The fact check also includes previously unpublished results from the representative youth survey 2023, which was conducted by the market and opinion research institute iconkids& youth on behalf of the Bertelsmann Stiftung. A total of 1,694 people aged between 14 and 25 were interviewed between 2 and 30 June 2023.


Zehn Mythen rund um Ausbildung und Studium - Faktencheck nachschulische Bildung 16. November 2023 4.67 MB 8882 downloads

Schnelle, Caroline; Müller, Ulrich; Johanning, Naemi; Rischke, Melanie: Zehn Mythen...