A single national certificate for school-leavers has been proposed by the federal education minister, Dr Brendan Nelson.
He will shortly invite tenders for a national assessment model for the Australian certificate of education.
The options include a single assessment system, using the International Baccalaureate as a template, or developing an aptitude test of a student's employability and skills, similar to the one used in the United States.
Dr Nelson said the equivalent of the entire school-age population of Tasmania -about 86,000 students - moved between states each year. Lack of a national educational standard and curriculum was hampering the interstate movement of parents with skills, he said.
The initiative has alarmed the eight states and territories, which see it as an attempt by the minister to impose federal government views on how their schools should operate.
"To have eight jurisdictions with different standards is a prescription for international mediocrity," said Dr Nelson, who has recently launched an inquiry into teacher training. He already has a committee investigating literacy teaching, and his department is helping to establish 24 federally-run technical schools. These will open in 2006 and compete with state high schools.
A funding package for state, Catholic and private schools last year required children in the lower and middle years to take tests in literacy, maths, science, information technology and civics.
Another condition was that schools have a "functioning flagpole" for the Australian flag.