Guy Ritchie, the well-known British film director, would like to see schools encouraging a "hustler mentality" in pupils.
Mr Ritchie, director of gangster films Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, dropped out of school at the age of 15, with no qualifications. "I had no academic ability whatsoever," he said.
"I learned that, if you want to make something happen, you have to do it for yourself. It's about being able to hustle, and not taking no for an answer."
By contrast, his wife, the singer Madonna, was consistently encouraged by her teachers. She went on to have an international career which has spanned more than two decades.
"It was the completely opposite educational upbringing to mine," he said.
"We have great things in the UK, but the desire to pull people down is still built in. It's a cancer that Brits suffer from.
"You have to be inspired by your teachers. Schools should be doing more to encourage the hustler mentality. If your head's in the right place, you can make things happen."
Mr Ritchie was speaking before the launch of the Film For Youth festival this week. It will showcase short films made by school-age directors and producers.
Pupils are encouraged to submit six-minute films for inclusion in the festival. These will be judged by a panel chaired by Mr Ritchie. The winners will be screened in Belfast this summer.
Mr Ritchie hopes that, in this way, he will do for film-making what Jamie Oliver did for food.
"Traditionally, people went to cooking college and learnt to make chicken Kiev," he said. "Now everyone's glazing their own parsnips. In the same way, you can pick up a video camera and make a short film for pound;250.
You couldn't do that 10 years ago.
"We're breaking away from the traditional boundaries that England has been incarcerated by for thousands of years. The class system is breaking down, and it doesn't matter what your background is."
Teachers, he said, need to identify pupil enthusiasm, and help them turn this into action. "It's all well and good talking about things," he said.
"But if you can't make that manifest, it doesn't mean anything.
"For teachers, remaining enthusiastic is everything. That enthusiasm runs downhill, to pupils. And it's almost impossible to encourage young people enough. You're encouraging their ability to encourage themselves."