Gordon Brown has signalled there could be more reform, not less, if he succeeds Tony Blair as prime minister.
The chancellor said he was going around the country listening to people about the big challenges facing the UK, such as terrorism and divisions in society.
"I want to listen, I want to learn, I want to hear what people are saying," Mr Brown told BBC News.
Tackling Britain's problems meant continuing reform and modernisation, and even intensifying it, he said.
Mr Brown insisted he was focusing on being a good chancellor by touring the country, not preparing for No 10.
His comments came in an interview with BBC political editor Nick Robinson after the prime minister offered concessions to MPs threatening to rebel against his plans to reform schools in England.
Mr Brown, who has been accused by the Conservatives of being a "road block to reform", gave a stark message to those who expect him to change tack if he takes charge.
"My message is reform is going to continue," he said. "This is not the last education reform there will be."
The UK needed a world-class education system, he said, with changes both in this Parliament and after the next election, when Mr Blair will no longer be prime minister.
Mr Brown said the country knew it needed to think about the long-term challenges.
"That will mean continued reform, continued modernisation, if necessary an intensification of reform," he argued.
The chancellor said people who thought he was opposed to identity cards and tougher anti-security measures had got him wrong.
"I want the toughest of security in defence of people's liberty," he said.
He is preparing to deliver a speech on national security, one of a series of addresses which reach beyond his Treasury brief.
Mr Brown did not comment directly on his leadership hopes, but said Mr Blair had made it clear he wanted an "orderly transition".
"It is for the country to decide in the end and for the Labour Party to put their candidates forward, and that is a matter that can be dealt with in the fullness of time," he said.
He also dismissed the threat of new Conservative leader David Cameron, saying the public would not trust people who gave "glib PR answers" but could not deal with the big issues.
'Changed by fatherhood'
Earlier, Mr Brown said becoming a father had changed his approach to life and politics and made him a better person.
The chancellor told the Daily Mirror the birth of his son John two years ago had made him realise "there are things far more important in life than politics".
With his wife expecting a third baby, he said his family was "number one" in his life and watching his son made him think about the needs of parents.
He also said the death of his first child, Jennifer, in 2002 had made him feel there was "no point" in carrying on.
"There are certain things you can't do for weeks or for months," he said.
"As a result of what happened, I was just not interested in doing things, I lost interest. There were just a lot of things I should have been doing but there just didn't seem a point."