Singapore's education system is renowned for creating the world's smartest students.

It is the envy of nations around the world, but what is the secret to its students' success?

Supporters point to a culture that values education and holds teachers in high esteem.

But it is a high-stakes game - only the top students make it into the best schools.

Twelve-year-old Xuan is preparing for a national exam that will determine which secondary school he attends.

He starts his day before sunrise and spends his days shuttling between school, tuition centres and extra classes, followed by homework late into the night.

He says he feels the pressure from multiple sources.

"I think it comes from our teachers, friends, family and it can get very stressful when everyone is looking at you thinking that you can score really well," Xuan says.

Now some are asking if this culture of competition puts too much pressure on kids.

In 2018, there was a 56 percent rise in the number of young people asking for mental health help, according to the country's leading mental health NGO.

Charmaine, 17, was diagnosed with depression after struggling during and after the exams.

"I think it's just the kind of environment that you're in, it's too much pressure," she says. "I kind of developed a fear of failure. Like a really, really intense one."

101 East goes back to school to find out why Singapore's students are top of the class, and the price they are willing to pay for success.

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Source: Al Jazeera