The National Party would launch a "crusade on literacy and numeracy" if it becomes the Government.
National Party leader John Key said that would include $18 million to enable primary and intermediate schools to provide additional help to struggling students.
Mr Key, speaking on a visit to Kaiti School in Gisborne on 13 October, said the party would set a national standard for literacy and numeracy which all primary school children would have to be tested against.
"There's an action plan for lifting literacy and numeracy standards for those young New Zealanders who are below the national standard."
He released a 10-point plan which includes giving schools extra support to deal with special needs and disruptive students, setting national standards in reading and mathematics and prosecuting parents of persistent truants.
Mr Key said the first task of the country's education system should be to ensure that every child can read, write and do mathematics to a level that lets them participate in a modern economy.
He said the country must do much better at equipping children for challenging times prompted by the current economic uncertainty.
Kaiti School principal Darryle Prosser told Mr Key that the school preferred to test the children in terms of their own progress.
Standards already in place, says union
The Primary Principals Federation president Paddy Ford said it was good that National wanted to put more money into schools.
But he said schools are already testing children to national standards and taking appropriate steps to make sure that they are achieving at the correct rate.
The president of the NZEI education union, Frances Nelson, said the literacy and numeracy crusade would simply support programmes and initiatives which are already in place to lift student achievement.
She said schools are already assessing their children using national benchmarks in literacy and numeracy that allow comparisons with children all around the country.
Labour education spokesperson Chris Carter described National's plan as nothing more than empty slogans.