Tackling literacy problems in Irish schools will be a key priority for the Labour Party in government.
Ruairi Quinn said his party would make a statement of intent that it would not allow the situation where one in in three students in disadvantaged schools is illiterate to continue.
The education spokesman said the outgoing Government had failed to equip young people with the basic skills needed to engage fully with society.
"Literacy is the foundation on which education is built," said Mr Quinn. If we don't get that right, all of our subsequent investment in education is compromised.
"No child should leave an Irish school unable to read and write. It is the most basic, and the most important, skill that our schools teach."
In its document Labour's Plan for Literacy, the party outlined proposals for primary and secondary schools nationwide.
Mr Quinn also criticised Fine Gael's proposals to cut 30,000 jobs out of the public service, which he said will have a devastating impact on frontline services.
"It is simply not possible to reduce the numbers in the public service by the amount Fine Gael are proposing, without hitting children and patients," he said.
"Labour acknowledges the need to reduce the public sector pay bill, and we have proposed reductions of 18,000, by cutting out administration and bureaucracy.
"Fine Gael are demanding a further 12,000 cuts. To put that in context, 12,000 people is the same as removing two teachers from every primary school, plus one in every six nurses."