Scottish education is being overtaken by systems in other countries around the world, it has been claimed.
The warning comes from Keir Bloomer, a former leader of council education directors and one of the architects of the Curriculum for Excellence.
Mr Keir is heading the Commission on School Reform which will carry out an inquiry into scope for improvement.
He said Scottish education had many strengths but there was a need to increase the pace of improvement.
The commission, established by independent think tanks Reform Scotland and the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, includes representatives from political parties, heads of schools and colleges and figures from the business and sporting worlds.
According to Mr Bloomer, progress against other countries has been hampered by Scotland's withdrawal from two of the three major international surveys which measure how well children are doing in key subjects and skills.
The commission meets for the first time on Monday and plans to carry out its own research with a view to offering clear, constructive suggestions charting a way forward.
Mr Bloomer said: "Our remit is very wide. There is really no aspect of Scottish education that we are prevented from considering.
"It will start by examining whether Scotland's international reputation for excellence is still justified and whether our schools are still enabling young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to fulfil their potential and meet the unprecedented challenges of the modern world.
"In the course of its investigations, the commission will identify any problems with the current school system in Scotland and try to analyse the root causes of them.
"It will, therefore, consider key questions such as whether any problems are the result of a lack of funding or are connected with more fundamental structural issues such as the way in which our schools are governed and managed."
The commission will produce a report setting out its findings and recommendations towards the end of 2012.