You're absolutely right. That's one of the biggest drawbacks of systems such as the one that I come from. But based on my experience, I'd say that most people fall into the category of 'sheep' - Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Barishnikov, Graham, et al are rare. As such, I think it is a pragmatic approach to say 'What can I do with my life that a) I don't hate b) I'm good at and c) I can make a good living at so that I can pursue all that other stuff that makes me happy'.
Perhaps rigorous study from an early age gives people the skills and discipline to succeed in fields l require a lot of memorization and methodology (admittedly, the high paying ones), but from personal experience, it doesn't make for creative problem solvers or for self-starters.
It's funny you should say that. For some course during my graduate work (numerical methods?), I had this British guy for an instructor. Should've known he was trouble when he mentioned that he does chaos theory for fun. Anyway, this was sort of an interdisciplinary course that was heavily math oriented, and there were people there with math/physics background, and there people like me there with non-math background. The math people excelled; people like me, we muddled through. For the finals, we had 8 chapters to cover. He hands us two sheets of paper, with 4 questions. Each question had 3-4 parts, and for each question, we even had a choice. Problem? I had to read the thing 10 times to even understand what the hell he was talking about, and there was not a single question where I could successfully answer all parts. After my initial panic, I noticed something. The room was dead quiet. Nobody was writing anything, not even the math brainiacs. That lent some comfort. I did the best I could, calculated my possible score (around 30/100), and hoped like heck that he was gonna grade on a giant sized curve.
But Ash, my year abroad at a uni in the UK was hilarious. It was so easy. They excused us from having to take finals that year because it was the first year they'd introduced that form of assessment and felt it'd only be fair to exempt us from them since we'd been "caught off guard" by their new system. LOL.