So, if American schools are so great, is there anything wrong with them? Hah!
When my son was in highschool, he came to me and asked, "Is there any reason I should study geometry?" I could have said, "Well, suppose you wanted to decide if two apparently identical triangles were actually identical. The Side/angle/side theorem would help." Instead, I simply said, "Nope." Actually, there is one geometrical rule that is very useful. It's the 3-4-5 rule, and I didn't learn it from geometry; I learned if from a couple of Hopi carpenters. It goes like this: If you have a triangle that is 3 units on one side, 4 units on a second, and 5 units on a third, then one of the angles is a right angle. Builders use it all the time.
There are two kinds of classes you can take. First, there are those classes that teach you how to process and use information: Reading, writing, rhetoric. Then there are those classes that give you information: geology, history, chemistry. I think that our schools should be strong in the first area. You gotta have the tools. The rest will come easier.
What do I propose after the readin' 'ritin' 'n' rhetoric? Elementary math, certainly. History, geography, science.
I'm an English major, but I'd go easy on the "classics." I was forced to read Silas Marner as a highschooler and hated it. Much later --loved it. Though it seems to me that, like most of 19th century art and lit, it's kinda melodramatic.
The creative stuff should be adjunct. Poets will be poets, dancers will be dancers, musicians will be musicians. It doesn't need to be "taught."
Finally, I'd have kids attend school all year, with two major holidays, June and December. They'd study hard half a day, and be apprenticed out the second half. Three hours study, three hours work.