Mike Tomlinson, the former teacher who proposed an overhaul of England's exams system, receives a knighthood in the New Year Honours.
Mike Tomlinson started as a teacher in the mid-1960s
Mr Tomlinson, whose four-part diploma could take over from GCSEs and
A-levels, is one of several figures within education to be honoured.
Also knighted is Peter Ogden, founder of the Ogden Trust, which helps students from deprived backgrounds.
Mary MacDonald, head teacher of Riverside Primary in North Shields, is made a Dame.
During her 11 years at the school, it has gone from failing to being one of the highest-rated in England in official league tables.
Mr Tomlinson started his career as a teacher in Nottingham in 1965.
He has been a head teacher and the chief schools inspector for England.
But he is perhaps best known for his recent proposals to introduce a diploma system for 14 to 19-year-olds in England.
This would incorporate basic literacy and numeracy skills, vocational training and super A++ grades to distinguish between the brightest students.
The government is due to give its response to Mr Tomlinson's proposals in a white paper in the new year.
Of the knighthood, he told the BBC News website: "I'm overwhelmed. I wasn't expecting it. It's not sinking in yet.
"I'm not looking forward to being called 'Sir Mike', as it's not quite me, but I suppose I'll have to get used to it on occasions.
"I've done nothing more than my job and I hope I've put something back into a system that's helped me so much.
"The knighthood is due in large part to all the people who have worked with me over the years and the support and help they've given. I must also thank my wife."
Peter Ogden is a millionaire who made his fortune from the Computacenter computer services company.
Scholarships for gifted pupils
He started the Ogden Trust in 1999, to provide scholarships to independent schools for gifted pupils whose families could not afford the fees.
The organisation also provides sponsorship for specialist schools, a government initiative aimed at raising standards in the secondary sector.
Mr Ogden was brought up in Rochdale, Lancashire, and went to Rochdale Grammar School.
He did a physics BSc and a PhD in particle physics at Durham University, then went into investment banking via an MBA at Harvard Business School.
Riverside Primary, where Mary MacDonald is head teacher, has shown huge improvement since 1999.
By 2001 all its pupils achieved the expected level in English, maths and science - a pass rate of 100%.
The school is also near the top of the "value-added" league tables - the government measure of how much pupils improve between the ages of seven and 11.