Chief Scientist’s Departure From Education Ministry Sparks Harsh Reaction

Prof. Ami Volansky says he was fired, but ministry says he quit after failing to agree on length of next contract.

 Education Ministry’s former chief scientist Prof. Ami Volansky
David Bachar

The Education Ministry’s chief scientist is leaving his job. But while the ministry insists it was a voluntary departure, the official himself says he was fired.

Prof. Ami Volansky was halfway through what was originally expected to be a four-year term. The ministry said he resigned because it suggested renewing his contract for only one year, after which it would reevaluate his continuance in office, while he wanted it renewed for the usual two years. The ministry wouldn’t agree to the demand, so he quit, they say.

Volansky refused to confirm or deny the ministry’s version of events. But he did make it clear that he sees his departure as a dismissal rather than a resignation.

Since Naftali Bennett took office as education minister last year, he has also ousted the head of the ministry’s pedagogical secretariat, Dr. Nir Michaeli, and the deputy chairwoman of the Council for Higher Education, Prof. Hagit Messer-Yaron. Michaeli left six months ago and hasn’t been replaced. The Council for Higher Education approved Dr. Rivka Wadmany Shauman as Messer-Yaron’s replacement last week.

But people close to Bennett insisted that the minister barely knew Volansky and had nothing to do with his ouster.

Volansky is an expert in education policy and higher education policy whose main field of research is educational reform. He held various senior positions in the Education Ministry for 30 years, but quit in 2003, only to return a decade later as chief scientist. He has been an adviser to four ministers on higher education and was behind a reform that gave elementary and high schools more autonomy.

As chief scientist, the issues he was researching included the use of personal computers by teachers and students; the privatization of the Arab education system and its influence on students’ achievements, motivation and values; and how students use their free time.