Prisoners are to be offered "military-style" classes in English and maths after being released to improve their chances of finding a job.
A pilot scheme will be held in six prisons in north west England, based on how new recruits in the armed forces are trained, such as 35 hours of lessons in a one-week block.
Ministers said the aim was to show offenders how important basic skills are when they try to find work.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "Crime blights lives, both for the offender and the victim. That is why we are piloting this programme in prisons, so we can give prisoners the basic skills they need to get their lives on track and bring down re-offending rates.
"This shorter but more intensive approach means that it is less likely that their studies will be disrupted and by linking lessons to other vocational courses, prisoners are more likely to attain the skills that are needed to get a job and progress in life."