System of education

The system of education at St. Aphrem Theological Seminary

The education at St. Aphrem Theological Seminary is based on an Orthodox Christian perspective, which is open as well to other Christian traditions and religions. Its aims are to meet the academic, cultural and spiritual needs of the students of philosophy and theology. It provides them with the essential religious knowledge that is required for ecclesiastic ministry and for advanced research in scriptural and theological fields and Syriac studies.

1.The administration of the Theological Seminary

Supreme Head: His Holiness Patriarch Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II.

Director: Very Rev. Fr Yaakob Babawee

Vice-Director, Supervisor of the curriculum and Spiritual Director: Very Rev. Fr Youhanna Habil

 2. Certificates given by the Theological Seminary

Saint Aphrem Theological Seminary offers three different kinds of certificates:

  • Diploma in Theology: To obtain this certificate, a student must acquire 60 credits.[1]
  • Bachelor of Theology: To obtain this certificate, a student must acquire 120 credits, of which twenty consist of a thesis.
  • Diploma in Syriac Language and Liturgy: To obtain this certificate, a student must complete the three levels of the Syriac language program and the determined classes of liturgy, for a total of 60 credits.

3. Admission requirements for the Theological Seminary

  1. A student must hold a “baccalauréat” (high school diploma) in sciences or literature, or completed his university studies.
  2. The student must submit the following documents:
  • An identity card or a civil status record.
  • A recommendation letter from the bishop of his diocese.
  • A certified copy of his high school diploma.
  • Two colored photos.
  • A medical certificate showing that he is free from contagious diseases and from congenital and psychological disabilities.
  • He must sign a statement in which he promises (1) to observe the regulations of the seminary, (2) to be obedient to his superiors, (3) to respect the teachers and (4) to care for his fellow students.

The application of admission must be personally submitted to the Theological Seminary, located at Saint Aphrem Monastery, Maʿarrat Sayednaya, before the end of June. During the submission of the application, an interview is conducted for final decision.

 4. Language of education

The theological classes are taught in Arabic, while the Syriac classes and grammar, and also the liturgical services, are done in Classical Syriac. Knowledge of English is necessary in order for students to make use of references in English during their research.

5. Schedule of the program

The academic year begins in September and ends by the end of June. It is divided into two semesters, each consisting of 14 weeks of classes with some additional weeks for exams and extra summer classes for Syriac language and liturgy.

            The academic year starts with a celebration of the Divine Liturgy on the Feast of the Holy Cross (14th of September). The first semester begins on the third week of September and continues to the 3rd week of January. The second semester begins on the 1st week of February and ends by the 3rd week of June.

            Bachelor’s courses last for four years (eight semesters) and the first year is considered a preparatory year, in which the lessons concentrate on Syriac, English and Arabic languages and the Holy Bible. A ninth semester is devoted to the preparation of the Bachelor thesis (40-60 pages).
During the second, third and fourth years, students typically complete about 16 credit hours per semester, in addition to the credits for language classes. Every class is regarded as obligatory for regular students and they should attend the classes accordingly. Auditors (students who do not earn credits) choose to attend the classes they want, but they will not receive a Bachelor of Theology. However, they will receive a certificate showing the courses they attended as auditors.

6. The method of evaluating classes and grades.

  1. The teacher chooses the best way to examine the learning achievement of his students. He can choose to do it through oral or written exam that is connected directly to the subject taught or to a related research. The participation of the students holds 20 % of the final degree.
  2. The grading scale is as follows:
  • 90 – 100 = Excellent
  • 80 – 90 = Very good
  • 70 – 80 = Good
  • 60 – 70 = Fair
  1. A student is considered to have failed a subject:
  • If he receives less than 60 according to the grading scale.
  • If he is absent from three classes per semester.
  • If it is proven that he was cheating or trying to cheat during exams.

The student who fails a subject has the right to retake the exam during the holiday between the two semesters or during the summer period.

  1. The administration of the seminary has the right to dismiss a student from the seminary:
  • If he fails two subjects, twice during two successive semesters.
  • If he behaves very badly.

7. The spiritual life in the Theological Seminary

The seminarians live in Saint Aphrem Monastery and pray the daily prayers with the monks, evening, morning and at noon. They read a chapter from the Holy Bible daily after the evening prayer and participate in the Divine Liturgy on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. The appointed spiritual director follows up their spiritual well-being by hearing their confession every Saturday evening. The students might watch movies about saints and other religious movies, every Sunday evening. They also have spiritual retreats and gatherings at certain times during the year.

8. Saint Aphrem Theological Seminary’s relationship with other theological institutions

Saint Aphrem Theological Seminary is a founding member of the ATIME (Association of Theological Institutes in the Middle East). It is considered the main Theological Seminary of the Syriac Orthodox Church, and is connected with the following theological seminaries and institutes:

  • Beth Suryoye, The Syriac Theological Seminary, Salzburg, Austria.
  • Saint Ignatius Syriac Orthodox Seminary, Södertälje, Sweden.
  • Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary, India.
  • Saint Matthew Clerical Institute, Iraq.
  • The Institute of Al-Zaʿfaran Monastery, Mardin, Turkey.
  • The Institute of Saint Gabriel Monastery, Tur Abdin, Turkey.

Saint Aphrem Theological Seminary has formal relations with theological colleges of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt and of the Armenian Orthodox Church in Lebanon, which aims at exchanging teachers, students, printed books and periodicals, researches and academic studies.

Through the ecumenical relations of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Saint Aphrem Theological Seminary endeavors to obtain scholarships for its outstanding students in order for them to continue their academic studies at international universities and colleges in Athens, Thessaloniki, Rome, Paris, London, Dublin and elsewhere.

[1] A credit is equal to one hour class per week during a period of 15 weeks.