Wholesale changes to what 15 and 16 year olds in England have to study have been set out.
Everyone will have to do "work-related learning" and will have an "entitlement" but not a right to study subjects such as history, geography and modern languages.
There are also changes to the way science is taught.
information and communication technology
physical, religious, sex and careers education.
The plans implement the ending of "one size fits all" secondary education, as first proposed by the government two years ago.
Guidance has been sent by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) to all schools, telling them what to do from September next year for "Key Stage 4" - the two main GCSE and GNVQ study years.
It is intended to give them time to prepare the ground, even though legislation is still needed for some of the proposals - and even though Mike Tomlinson's working group on 14 to 19 schooling is not due to make final recommendations until next summer.
Among the changes, which need Parliamentary approval, the study of design and technology and a modern foreign language will no longer be compulsory.
A new category called the "entitlement" curriculum is introduced for the arts, humanities, design and technology and modern foreign languages.
French may not be an option for some
"This means that schools must make these areas of the curriculum available to all students who wish to study courses in them," the guidance says.
Courses have to lead to "a recognised qualification" but no minimum length of study is specified.
The QCA stresses that students do not have the right to study particular subjects - it is up to a school's governors to decide what to offer.
Schools are expected to offer both geography and history but are only required to offer one of them, or might do a course with "issues and themes" from both, perhaps combined with other subjects.
In languages, schools have to offer one course in an official EU language - perhaps delivered in partnership with another school or college.
There will be a new obligation to provide work-related learning.
The QCA says a large number of schools already provide this opportunity for students "to develop the key skills for enterprise and employability and learn through direct experience of work".
It stresses that from next year everyone must do it.
"Work-related learning aims to benefit the general education and career planning of all students. It is not a response to disaffection and/or underachievement."
There are also big changes to the science curriculum, to take effect from 2006 so schools have time to absorb them.
In future there will be a core curriculum - described as "science for citizens" - leading to a single GCSE qualification.
The guidance says this "enables students to engage in the world of science as consumer and citizen. It prepares students for future roles as householder, parent and juror ...".
The new course is being tried in 82 schools from this month.
To get a double award - the most popular form of science at GCSE level these days - students would also have to do a separate course, either more practical or more academic, depending on their future aspirations.
Or students could still do separate biology, chemistry and physics - although any of those on its own would not cover the new core, and the core covers all of them to an extent.