I think a lot of it is family based

Other countries are putting an emphasis to their children that education is important and to work hard on your studies.
One reason other countries are doing this is because they have to. Many countries (such as Japan and Germany) require students to take exams before what we would consider high school. These exams place the student into either a college prep like high school or a trade learning school. The trade learning school is then followed by and apprenticeship–which leads to a full time job after completion. Therefore, the parents put an emphasis on their children all the way through elementary schools to do their best and learn the most they can. And since parents like to brag about their children’s scores—they keep the pressure to study on.
However, here is the U.S., while some parents put an emphasis on studies—many are just surviving and rather have their kids working to help support the family—part of which causes our huge high school drop-out rate.
In addition to that–those same parents put no emphasis on education and care not if their children misbehave in school–even in the elementary years.
Worse than that—many teachers look at a misbehaving Johnny in the early years and pin him as not being successful and slowly but surely create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
All that being said–I do not think college is an absolute necessary device for success. Many, many people in our wonderful country have done VERY well without it.
However, I do believe education can never hurt you (unless you are taking huge student loans to weigh you down for years to come).

Just an opinion,
Erika (I have student loans I am working on. However, my 2 kids will be a college senior and junior this year-and soon will be graduating debt free!).