The Tories would ensure schools focus on basic skills rather than political correctness, says Chris Woodhead.
Chris Woodhead says the exam system is not fulfilling its purpose
The ex-chief inspector of schools is to review the English national curriculum if the Conservatives are elected.
"The best way to develop self esteem is to teach children to read and write, to add up and to know something about the world," he told BBC Radio's Today.
The Lib Dems agree curriculum reforms is needed. Labour says the Tories plan to cut £1bn from schools budgets.
Conservative leader Michael Howard told the Welsh Tory conference on Sunday that the "all must have prizes culture" weakened teachers' authority.
Mr Woodhead said it was wrong that under the existing national curriculum children were to be taught in citizenship classes to "feel positive about themselves" and to respect other races.
"I am not saying that any of these things are not important, I just think the explicit focus, the idea that these things are taught to children as young as five or six is wrong."
The priority for his review would be to ensure the curriculum focused on "traditional subject knowledge of the kind that I think most people in England expect young people to be taught at school".
Mr Woodhead also said once the curriculum review was complete, he would turn to the exams system.
He said the "escalating numbers" of candidates getting grade A - particularly at A level - showed exams were not fulfilling their basic function.
Outlining the Tories' plans for schools on Sunday Mr Howard promised to give control over classrooms and the last say on expulsions back to head teachers .
The Tory leader suggested he may be accused of "demoralising those we should congratulate" for questioning aspects of the education system.
"It's just like being condemned as a racist for wanting to limit immigration.
"But it's none of these things. It's about facing up to the truth," he said.
Labour's Education Secretary Ruth Kelly said Mr Howard's "central purpose" was to cut funding from state schools.
"Michael Howard has committed to cut at least £1bn from state schools to subsidise private education. Cuts from state schools for everyone to subsidise the private education of a few."
A Liberal Democrat spokesman said there was a great deal of need to reform the national curriculum.
This should ensure that children were better engaged in the learning process and given the choice to learn vocational skills.
The party is also planning to scrap the education standards watchdog, Ofsted, and the number of inspections as party of plans to cut red tape and costs.