Opposition parties have rallied against the government’s decision to push ahead with the traditional format of Leaving Cert exams.
Education Secretary Norma Foley said the profile of grades for this year will be based on last year’s.
The decision has drawn widespread criticism from opposition parties, who have called for a hybrid option of recognized grades and a written exam for students.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald said the decision not to have that offer was “an appalling decision.”
“It’s a massive mistake not to allow for a hybrid model or a blended model and give students a choice between traditional exams and calculated grades,” Ms McDonald told the Dail.
“Students have been very consistent in asking for choices, a blended approach, because it makes sense, because it’s fair.
“For this year’s graduating students, the entire graduation cycle, the fifth and sixth year, has been disrupted by Covid-19.
“They had to overcome tremendous academic challenges before we even consider the incredible pressure on their mental health.
“Pupils have faced full closures for two months in the past year, they have had lessons outside of the classroom, which is not comparable to learning in the classroom.
“Many struggled with lack of equipment, Wi-Fi connection issues and on top of that they had the stress of being young people going through a global pandemic.
“There has been a high level of student and teacher absenteeism due to self-isolation and infection, which has had a massive impact.
“We know there are challenges with this, but I don’t accept that any of the challenges are insurmountable.”
She asked Ms Foley to reverse her decision.
In recent weeks there have been calls for a rethink of how school examinations are to be held in Ireland this year amid concerns about the disruption students have been facing.
Social Democrat co-leader Catherine Murphy said students and parents were “extremely concerned, confused and angry” after Tuesday’s announcement.
“There have been long school closures which we know have been due to illness among both teachers and students and there have actually been close links,” Ms Murphy told the Dail.
“In addition, students whose education has been seriously disrupted because of Covid have not experienced the pandemic in the same way.
“Those fortunate enough to have distance learning during lockdown are unlike others who didn’t even have broadband or a tablet to keep up with coursework.”
Taoiseach Micheal Martin said an accredited grading system could not have been applied fairly because one in four students failed to take the Junior Certificate.
“Your data would not have been available for an accredited grade alternative,” said Mr. Martin.
“I haven’t seen anyone suggest an alternative to this in a meaningful way.
“The Minister has now opted for a very, very wide range of written tests, so that most of the papers have a content that can be covered by a third.
“Students should look to the 2021 paper for guidance and full details of curriculum etc will be released in the coming days.”
He said this year’s Leaving Cert will be “dramatically different” and present a “dramatically expanded” selection compared to the 2019 and 2018 exam papers.
“These significant changes will help students navigate two very challenging years,” added the Fianna Fail director.