A report from Canterbury University's education department claims many first-year students struggle to write an adequate sentence and have limited general knowledge.
In a submission to a select committee inquiry into teacher education, tabled in Parliament this week, Canterbury's education department claimed a large number of entrants did not have the cognitive ability it would expect of first-year university students.
"Many students have limited general knowledge, limited vocabularies and some cannot write an adequate sentence or structure their ideas," the submission said.
"Many do not have the basic numeracy skills needed to manage the demands of our papers.
"We have found, in general, that first-year failures are due either to lack of understanding of course content or, more often, that students' work is unintelligible."
The submission was part of an education and science select committee inquiry into teacher education.
The committee's report recommended minimum standards be developed for entry into teacher-training courses.
The inquiry, initiated in October 2001, attracted 65 submissions from education organisations.
The select committee report outlined the concerns of many submitters, who believed the standard of students entering teacher-training courses had dropped because of an increased number of providers entering the market in the past decade.
Concerns were raised about student funding models encouraging providers to lower entry standards to attract greater numbers of students and secure more government funding.
However, the select committee noted that, while there was a perception of a decline in teacher standards, that was not necessarily the reality.
As well as the introduction of national entry standards, the committee recommended:
* The establishment of exit standards for students finishing teacher training courses.
* A more rigorous selection process for teachers assigned to assist in the practical training of trainees.
* That approval and quality assurance agencies work together to ensure a unified set of standards.
* The development of bridging programmes to enable interested people without prerequisite academic qualifications to enter training programmes.
Christchurch College of Education associate principal Lindsay Parry said the college was generally supportive of the recommendations in the report.
Dr Parry said the college had already started to introduce some of the measures suggested, such as quality requirements and bridging programmes.
The head of primary education at the college, Barry Brooker, said exit standards were also considered highly important and he believed teacher graduates of the Christchurch college were of the highest calibre.