Keir Bloomer, former education director and chief executive of Clackmannanshire Council, is to chair a Commission on School Reform, set up in response to fears that Scottish education is not internationally competitive.
The commission, backed by the independent think tanks Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, has been given a wide remit and up to a year to investigate the root causes of problems it uncovers.
"It will look at the school systems of other comparable countries to establish how their achievements and structures compare with our own. Further, it will consider whether the measures used in international comparisons provide a good guide to the ability of different systems to equip young people for life in the 21st century," said Mr Bloomer.
Countries like China, India, Brazil and Russia had developed very fast and their basic and medium-level skills were comparable to Scotland's. But the most recent Pisa results suggested Scotland was no longer ahead in high- level skills of innovation and creativity, he added.
"Shanghai, particularly, is out of the park in relation to science. It is further ahead of us than we are ahead of Mexico at the bottom of the table. I think that is a national, hugely serious problem," he said.
Mr Bloomer told TESS that Reform Scotland in particular was interested in the issue of school governance.
"It is almost a reflex among those involved in educational policy-making to suggest that the areas that need to be sorted are either the curriculum or teaching methodology - so are there concerns beyond that on how education is run?" he asked.