Language and design experts say the plans will put teenagers at a disadvantage in the job market.
Ministers plan to make the key stage 4 curriculum more flexible by allowing some pupils to concentrate on their strongest subjects, and others to consolidate the basics, at the expense of languages and technology.
Under current regulations, disaffected pupils can drop two subjects from science, languages and de-sign and technology to spend up to a day a week in the workplace. The rules would extend the scheme to those who want to focus on particular subjects and to weaker pupils.
Brigitte Boyce, director of the Association for Language Learning, said: "This is an extremely dangerous decision. It totally undermines the policy of modern foreign languages for all."
Jenny Jupe, deputy chief executive of the Design and Technology Association, said: "We are ex-tremely disappointed at ministers' short-sighted decision. It sends the message that ministers consider design and technology to be less important than other subjects. It is a subject with practical applications that youngsters do not experience in other curriculum areas."
Under the new rules schools would still have to offer a broad and balanced curriculum but could disapply pupils if they can demonstrate that alternative provision would be more suitable.