This sort of argument crops up all the time:
A student in a western system of education decides what they want to really study, whereas we in India are asked to cram any and everything to give us (so called) “more rounded” knowledge. Ultimately, the syllabi are so vast that we just get superficial knowledge of everything, and hardly learn much.
While this is perhaps essentially true, I just have a tiny bit to add as one who now has a little experience as an educator.
An educational system which allows everyone to choose exactly what they want—even from the earliest stages—results not only in a vast assortment in the sorts of things people know, but also the depth to which they are knowledgeable. Just because you give choice doesn’t mean people are always motivated enough to go very deep. Unlike a more structured, rigid system, a more flexible one doesn’t attempt to force or correct this, for it doesn’t see a problem. The onus is now on the individual to accomplish.
Oh, and something dawned upon me recently. While it may appear as though having to know a lot of things from different areas—even including a lot of memorisation—is a bad thing; it is not. Often times, to solve complex problems, you need to draw on information from varying sources, and you need to know a lot before you can assimilate them into something cogent. A system which doesn’t force this on people will not produce as many kids who are “more rounded;” not offering them the skills they need to achieve this.
What I am probably saying here is that the educational system plays a big role no doubt, but individual motivation and inclination play just as big a part. (Which means things can go both ways either way.)
 Note: Memorisation; not rote memorisation. Rote memorisation is bad either way you look at it.