Education authorities have quickly condemned Labor's threat to restrict teaching degrees to only the top 30 per cent of high school graduates.
The Australian Council of Deans of Education on Sunday welcomed the federal opposition's "enthusiasm to raise the status of teaching" but shot back at the call to increase emphasis on final-year scores.
Deputy Labor leader Tanya Plibersek says there is "a very worrying trend" of those without direction entering teaching courses and she wants universities to increase entry cut-off marks to ignite competition.
She proposed restricting entry to the top 30 per cent of year 12 finishers - an ATAR of about 80.
"What is troubling me is that a few years ago a third of people who went into teaching had an ATAR of 80 or above. Now it's only a fifth," Ms Plibersek told reporters in Sydney.
"We're going backwards.
"We cannot afford to continually dumb down teaching degrees, to enrol people who will never be competent teachers ... (and) we are doing a disservice to the profession as a whole if we continue on this path."
ACDE President Tania Aspland says there is no way education providers would let students loose in the classrooms unless they clear a series of "difficult hurdles during years of study" including a literacy and numeracy test.
"A threat to mandate a cap on ATARs of 80 may sound like a quick fix but, in reality, fewer than one in four students are chosen on the basis of their ATAR alone," Professor Aspland said in a statement.
"There is no evidence to show that those with higher ATARS become better teachers as non-academic traits are also vitally important in teaching quality."
The Commonwealth, unlike state and territory governments, does not have the power to set minimum entry scores.
Victoria's Labor government set an ATAR floor of 65 for teaching degrees and it will rise to 70 from 2019.
A report released in December by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership showed fewer than two in five teaching degree admissions in 2016 came via secondary education.
However the report showed that of those using ATAR scores, more were being admitted despite failing to reach 70.00.
In 2007, 30 per cent of entrants failed to top 70 while in 2016, the proportion had increased to 40 per cent.
Australian Associated Press