Education Secretary Michael Gove has called for pupils in England to have shorter holidays and spend more time in the classroom today.
Mr Gove said children in Britain are at a "significant handicap" compared to those in East Asia who receive extra tuition and support from teachers.
The Conservative MP has warned the current education system is out of date and children should have longer school days and term times.
Mr Gove said: "If we look at the length of the school day in England, the length of the summer holiday and we compare it to the extra tuition and support children are receiving elsewhere then we are fighting, or running, in this global race in a way which ensures we already start with a significant handicap."
The 45-year-old said some schools have already started to recognise the need to change the structure of their terms.
He added that those from poorer families are losing out the most from longer holidays.
He said: "We've noticed in Hong Kong and Singapore and other East Asian nations that expectations of mathematical knowledge or of scientific knowledge at every stage are more demanding than in this country.
"In order to reach those levels of achievement a higher level of effort is expected on behalf of students, parents and teachers.
"School days are longer, school holidays are shorter. The expectation is that to succeed, hard work is at the heart of everything."
The Education Secretary insisted that any changes to term times and the school day would be 'family friendly'.