He told business leaders at a seminar at St James's Palace in London that the failure to teach literacy and numeracy excluded the young from Britain's national heritage.
The Prince, who is president of the Business in the Community project and a strong supporter of traditional teaching methods, said: "If these things are not taught to children in the most effective way - we have seen a lot of trendy ideas over the last 40 years - children will be placed at a grave disadvantage for the rest of their lives.
"Anything less than the best leads to under-achievement and unemployment. It can lead to even worse. It can result in a superficiality of an existence which is rooted in the material and the transient, and sometimes a moral and spiritual void can swallow these young people up as they live a life excluded from the literature, culture, history and ideas which identify us as a nation and define us as human beings."
He praised business leaders involved in the project. The seminar heard from some who had visited primary schools to identify ways in which business can help raise standards. They are acting as mentors to head teachers, advising on finance and management and providing help with reading.
A survey by Business in the Community found that 42 per cent of companies expect to increase their activity in primary schools. At present only half of primary schools have links with business compared with 98 per cent of secondaries. But a third of the businesses questioned in the survey rated the quality of their activities as only fair or poor.
David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, who also spoke at the seminar, said the reluctance of primary schools to join with business was decreasing. "The challenge for business lies in linking with schools in disadvantaged areas," he said.Reuse content