Children today are (at least) two years behind their 1960s selves. Yet they're not becoming more stupid or inept; the fault lies in the quality of teaching and the broadening of the curriculum to the extent that every subject battles for supremacy and none is covered sufficiently.
The solution is clear. Revert to a 1950s-style grammar school education. Ensure before anything else that children can read and write their own name and add, multiply, divide and subtract without using a calculator. Restrict the pre-11 (and 11+) syllabus to English, mathematics, basic history, a smattering of science, a painting class and/or a woodwork/shop class or two a week and a good deal of healthy open-air play free of all those noisome Health & Safety regulations which deem it unsafe for children to even play with conkers or run in a playground. Teach them good manners, discipline and logic: how to argue from cause to effect, rather than dealing with the after-effects of lamentable decisions, such as to spend £1 trillion of taxpayer money, for the next two or three generations. Above all, keep technology out of the classroom and preferably out of schools altogether. Recent studies have demonstrated that exposing a four-year-old child's mind to IT can actually damage its ability to develop relationships and even moral centres. Young children simply don't need to be exposed to a barrage of podcasting, webchat and twittering: they're far better off interacting with one another. Insist on a school uniform that is as plain and unadorned as possible, ban political correctness and put the teachers in charge. Above all, ban sex education pre-11+. This government's 'if you can't be good, be careful' stance has done nothing to stop our children dabbling, often disastrously, in sexual experimentation. Allow them to be children: why presexualise them?
At the age of 11, children should be able to take 2 exams: one academic, one more hands-on and technical, which will demonstrate in what area their talents lie. Those academically gifted may go to grammar schools, try for scholarships at private schools or enter as fee-paying students if their parents are able. Those more technically-adept go on to polytechnics, the former state schools, from which they have the ability to a) leave at 14 and go on to apprenticeships b) learn other languages if they have the ability and desire to do so, to increase their job-market potential c) go on to skilled technical academies in which they can perfect their skills, develop new industries and teach and train others. For both groups, there is an opportunity for further academic/technical aptitude testing at the age of 14 so, if a child who, for example, has not performed well academically at his/her 11+, they may be 'streamed' into grammar/private school education and vice versa: children develop at different rates. The test at 14 will comprise English and Mathematics and every child must be able to read to a basic level, write clearly and demonstrate the ability to do standard sums: in other words, it must be able to go out in the world and be able to understand legal contracts and do its own household accounts.
After 14, those staying in education may carry on to 'O' Level - 5-6 subjects, with English and Mathematics a mandatory requirement and A-Level, if they so choose. University entrance must be dependent solely upon academic excellence and each student demonstrably possess the level of aptitude each institution requires. At 16, children may combine academic or technical study with Army training, either as a cadet, at military academies or in signing up post-education. Those with a long 'rap sheet' might be offered the option of wiping said sheet clean if they join the Armed Forces and learn discipline, comradeship and a trade. Around 25% of the population is expected to enter academic institutions and approximately 15-20% to technical institutions.
Just a few ideas off the top of my head about what a rounded education 'should' entail. Any thoughts/opinions, however radical, will be gratefully received!