Based on my children's school experiences atleast in that context I can say that the answer is the goal is what matters. Every school seems to be in a race to get the students reach some goal out in the future. Perhaps it is not only the schools to be blamed. It is a reflection of the aspirations of the parents and society as well.
In case of nursery / kindergarten students it is getting admissions to the most sought after schools for I standard.
For +2 students it is all about clearing entrance tests for various professional courses. Most colleges are PUC + CET + AIEE + JEE + ...
For high school students in 8th (at least in ICSE) it is about clearing the board exams in 10th.
Some extreme cases of these are that ICSE 8th standard students start off with 9th standard text books and they study 10th std books in 9th! In 10th they keep writing exams one after another to gear up for the grand-finale board exams!!
I read in the prospectus of a college (which itself started of as a coaching center but metamorposised into a +2 college) that the time students spend on each question of CET (common entrance for Engg and Medical in Karnataka) will be analyzed and improvements will be made!
While yes there needs to be a goal, somewhere the joy of learning for the sake of learning, living in the present seems to have been lost with this never ending focus on the future. Can students, parents and schools not focus on the heart of the matter that is learning and then goals & achievements will follow as natural consequences of that learning?