There is some disagreement in the definitions of higher education. Some define it purely as education that will result in a college degree, at least an associate’s degree. Others believe it is the pursuit of any education at levels where attendance is voluntary. This doesn’t typically mean high school in places like the US, although there are voluntary high school dropouts. It usually means education from a school that offers post-secondary education.
It should be noted that the definition of higher education could vary from country to country. Not all countries have compulsory education equivalent to what a person might get in an American high school. Some countries have little to no public schooling available and any education is for the privileged few instead of for almost all. Studying at high school level may not be compulsory in many countries, and some limit public schooling to a much younger age.
Essentially, the term higher education can be broadly defined. In most of the Western world, it is viewed as post-secondary school education undertaken on a voluntary basis. This could mean studying at a university, taking a certificate class at a community college, or attending a vocational or trade school. Whether people want to become licensed vocational nurses or college professors of mathematics, they usually undertake higher education training at one of these institutions. Some trade schools may not even require secondary school completion or diplomas.
Higher education is seldom compulsory. Not everyone needs to go to college or trade school, and few countries make this education mandatory. However, many people find they are not adequately trained to enter the work force without additional information and skills. This can make participating in a higher learning institute extremely desirable.
A bit of confusion can now exist in many high schools that offer advanced placement (AP) courses. These may be taken by the most capable students who can handle a deeper level of exploration of material. Should these students pass the class and pass requisite exams, they may receive college credits. They are pursuing their “lower education” degree in the form of a diploma, at the same time they’ve already started studying at a higher education level.
Not all schools have AP programs, but this doesn’t mean a student can’t concurrently pursue a diploma and college credits at the same time. Many students are eligible to start taking community college courses by their sophomore or junior year in high school. The process can work backward too. It is possible in my colleges to get credit for taking college classes to qualify for a high school diploma. Some students who prefer the college environment may finish their secondary school requirements at a community college after dropping out of high school, and their work may count as both higher and secondary education.