Labour leader Helen Clark has announced further details of the Government's Schools Plus package, which aims to have all young people in education or training until they are 18.
Miss Clark says the current school leaving age of 16 would not change, but early leaving exemptions for students under 16 would be removed.
She says a compulsory education and training age of 17 would be introduced in 2011, and will be increased to 18 in 2014.
Miss Clark says Labour would make an initial investment of $39 million over four years to help implement the programme.
She says educational achievement levels are improving but 34% of students still leave school without level 2 of the NCEA.
"By 2011 all students, from Year 9, will be expected to have their own education plan, developed and agreed in partnership with them and their families.
"The plan will set out their course of study and it should be both relevant and interesting to the student and allow them to meet their aspirations."
Almost $12 million would go to extending careers guidance packages for all students, $21 million on increasing student access to tertiary learning and skills training and the remaining $6 million on initiatives that are already underway.
Principals warn of dangers in scheme
The Secondary Principals Association vice president Paul Daley says there's a need for a programme such as Schools Plus, but it must not jeopardise existing schemes.
"We need to be sure that it does in fact target the right group. There are a number of schools throughout the country that have made their curriculums flexible and shown a lot of initiative, and have got some very very good and successful programmes operating.
"Our concern would be that Schools Plus comes down on them and perhaps forces them into a position where those programmes will no longer exist."
Mr Daley says the government must ensure the funding gets to schools and is not lost in bureaucracy.
National would scrap Schools Plus
The National Party leader John Key says $39 million won't go far to help thousands of young people who leave school at 16 and don't go on to further training.
He says the public has heard it all before from Miss Clark.
"Back in 2002 she was promising to ensure by 2007 that all 15 to 19 year olds would be in work, training or school. We now know that there are round about 26,000 15 to 19 year olds who are in fact not in work, school or training."
Mr Key says if National wins the election, it will scrap Schools Plus in favour of its Youth Guarantee Programme, which gives a universal education entitlement for all 16 and 17 year olds at schools, polytechnics and private training organisations.