Two-time Education Ministry Director Reappointed

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar wants to appoint Dr. Shimshon Shoshani as the next Education Ministry director general, he announced yesterday.

The selection will be brought before the next cabinet meeting on Sunday. Should the appointment be approved, as is expected, Shoshani will start work within the next week or two, in place of the incumbent Shlomit Amichai.

This would be the third term for Shoshani, 72, who directed the ministry from 1986 to 1989 and from 1993 to 1996, and also has held a number of other senior education positions. In recent years he headed the Taglit-Birthright Israel program, which sponsors free 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults.

Shoshani has been considered a leading education authority in Israel for more than 20 years.

A Shoshani confidant told Haaretz, "There's no question the education system is in a catastrophic state in every respect. Shoshani decided to return to the position in order to change the current situation and to advance education."

Another source said, "For Shoshani, excellence means giving equal opportunity to all students. Without high-quality teachers, it will be hard to improve the system."

The sources said the decision was made Friday and involved President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "The fact that all these people recommended Shoshani for the position is testament that this is a purely professional appointment," they said.

Sa'ar said yesterday that he and Shoshani "are cooperating in the national mission to make the necessary turnaround in the education system. The challenge before us is a campaign for Israel's future, which needs the assistance of the most experienced people, as well as the best people and the best minds to serve the state."

In the months leading up to the last Knesset elections, Shoshani met with Netanyahu several times and suggested they draft a Likud platform on education.

In the 2007 Herzliya Conference, Shoshani - along with Prof. Uzi Arad, recently appointed head of the national security council - presented a reform program for moving up the age of mandatory schooling to four, beginning Bagrut matriculation exams at 16 and allowing bachelor's degrees to be granted at 19.