The school curriculum is a Victorian construct "harmed by disjointed reform", according to the former head of the inspectorate.
In one of his most outspoken comments since leaving his post, Douglas Osler states bluntly in his monthly TES Scotland column (Platform, page 21): "The curriculum is not working."
He argues that it fails to prepare pupils for their future, is preventing teachers from motivating pupils and is not providing a springboard for the improvements in exam results that were meant to come from the new Highers.
But Mr Osler reserves his most passionate attack for the demotivating effects on pupils who are "apathetic, angry or absent".
He warns: "Behaviour in school cannot all be blamed on children's social problems or on changes in society. Much of it is caused by boredom because what they are asked to do does not seem to them to be relevant. Many young people are turned off not by learning but by what they are asked to learn.
They can't square what they do in school with the world they see and they are often right."
He suggests compulsion should be limited to English, numeracy, the sciences, computing, PE and history. Other areas could be included as modules.
Mr Osler concludes that a comprehensive review, set in train by the Education Minister last month to cover the 3-18 years, is overdue. But he warns that there are "powerful interests vested in the status quo".