Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said it was "criminal" not to teach children "an appreciation of culture" and announced the publication of a national cultural education plan later this year.
Hunt said more than £15m would be allocated over three years to fund the plan's proposals.
It follows a review by Classic FM boss Darren Henley that asked ministers to consider making it compulsory to study the arts up to the age of 16 and described cultural education in England as "patchy".
Speaking to an invited audience at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Mr Hunt said: "It is as criminal not to plant the seeds that allow an appreciation of culture as not to teach children history, geography or science."
Hunt, a vocal supporter of attempts to create local television stations, also raised the prospect of a new digital channel dedicated to the arts.
He challenged galleries, theatres and other arts groups to embrace digital technology.
He said: "For too many of our cultural organisations technology is still about having a good website, instead of a tool to boost artistic innovation, help fundraising and reach new audiences."
Hunt, who has spoken before of the need to increase philanthropic giving to the arts, also announced he had commissioned reports on how to increase fundraising outside London and how to increase the amount of money given as legacies.
He was speaking at an event to announce the successful bidders to the government's £56m Catalyst: Endowments fund.
The scheme awards grants of up to £5 million to organisations to build up long-term endowment funds to help meet day-to-day running costs.
The money will be shared between 34 groups including the Halle Concerts Society in Manchester, the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust in Bristol and the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Also benefiting are the Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle, County Durham, and London's Old Vic Theatre.
Hunt said: "Boosting private giving for culture is key to putting arts and heritage organisations on the path to long-term financial stability. It is very gratifying to see that so many have already been successful in attracting match-funding and I am grateful to all those companies and individuals who so generously support our arts and heritage bodies."
Asked whether the government would be dangerously dictating the arts sector by making groups provide free content for a digital channel, Hunt said: "I don't think arts organisations will resist this at all because it's part of their core mission to make sure that their output is seen by as many people as possible.
"People are passionate about spreading the message and making sure that culture can be part of as many people's lives as possible.
"I think they will welcome this."