Pupils may be forced to study history and geography until they are 16 under plans for a shake-up of the national curriculum.
An independent review ordered by Education Secretary Michael Gove called for the move as part of a wider drive to address concerns that England's schools are falling behind. A report warned of a sharp decline in history teaching, with 159 schools not entering a single pupil for a GCSE in the subject last year.
Studies have exposed a shocking ignorance among school-leavers.
One found that half of all 18- to 24-year-olds did not know Nelson led the British to victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, with a similar proportion unaware that the Romans built Hadrian's Wall. Under the plan, all pupils in England would be required to study history, geography, a foreign language, design and technology and the arts until at least 16, even if they are not planning to take a GCSE in them.