It is like a competition to get the best grades and the highest test scores. It has become deep rooted into the culture to perform academically as if your life depended on it. Though we are new to Singapore, I have seen this in our own country too with a lot of stress and anxiety to get high SAT and other test scores to get into a good college. Now that my job has moved my wife, kids and I to Singapore, we were looking for the best in physics tuition to help out our son. He is strong in all the sciences except physics. His peer group pressure has him fretting over not doing well in physics.
I was happy to get an average or above average score on some tests when I was in school. It did not hinder me in getting a good job to not be performing at the top of the class. Now it is a social necessity to get high scores on tests. Employers are looking for the so-called cream of the crop, and academic stats are going a long way. This is especially true for getting into a university you want to go to rather than just one that will accept you. I do not agree with the social performance pressure for academics, but there is not much I can do about it.
Our son wants to become an epidemiologist, and it is going to take an exceptional academic resume to get to where he wants to go. I got my job because of a lot of natural ability, some college experience and meeting the right people along the way. There is not much in the way of writing your own ticket now. You need to have that strong resume of academic achievement to advance.