The schools system in England remains "mediocre" despite the improvements of the past two decades, the outgoing chief inspector of schools has said.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, who retires as head of Ofsted at the end of the year, said he would give the system "six out of 10" for its current performance.
Appearing on BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show, he said that while it was in better shape than at any time in the past, there was still "a lot to do" if it was to match the top performing countries in Europe and Asia.
"Our system was in special measures, in intensive care, in the 70s, 80s and much of the 90s, but the reforms that have taken place - to governance, academies, free schools, a better curriculum and assessment - have made a big difference and we've got a much better education system now," he said.
"We're not there with the South Koreas and the Shanghais and some of the really good European nations and we've got a lot to do to catch up.
"We've got to sort out the big regional differences in performance in our country, particularly at secondary level, particularly in the Midlands and the North, and we've got to do something about skills."
Asked how he would sum up the system, he said: "It's six-and-a-half out of 10. Mediocre but getting better."
Sir Michael reiterated his long-standing opposition to Theresa May's plans to bring back grammar schools.
"We mustn't be misty eyed and nostalgic about the 50s when a small number of youngsters did very well and 80% of youngsters, more, did badly. Our economy now needs more highly skilled, better educated people than ever before," he said.
He lavished praised, however, on the controversial former education secretary, Michael Gove, whose time in the post was marked by repeated clashes with the teaching profession.
"He'll go down as one of the great secretaries of state for education. I had some rows with him which were well publicised, but I was broadly on the same page as he was," he said.
"It needed radical reform - greater autonomy for people on the frontline, a reform of the curriculum which was wishy washy and not robust enough, reform of the examination system. He was a good secretary of state."