From Rote to Renewal: A PhD Journey to Transform Christian Learning in Ethiopia

Group of African School Children laughing

Born into an illiterate Muslim family, Wondimu’s father had a passion to see his children educated despite lacking formal schooling himself. This desire motivated him to send young Wondimu to primary school in 1974, just as a communist regime was taking power and dramatically reshaping Ethiopia’s curriculum.

The new Marxist-Leninist ideology permeated everything Wondimu learned, from portraying God as a non-existent myth to emphasizing rote memorization over critical thinking. As he observed firsthand the system’s pedagogical deficiencies, Wondimu began searching for something more holistic.

A turning point came when Wondimu encountered a persecuted group of Christian students whose genuine love, joy and faith led him to follow Christ. This decision set him on a new trajectory toward theological education and Christian ministry.

In the 1990s, while studying at a theological college, Wondimu was exposed to a philosophy of education centered on the whole person – physical, spiritual, social and psychological. An introduction to the concept of integral curriculum design catalyzed his desire to deeply explore this topic.

Wondimu’s driving passion became implementing a more comprehensive approach to shaping lives through education, stemming from his dissatisfaction with his own fragmented learning experience. When the opportunity arose to pursue a PhD, curriculum studies was the obvious path.

Despite challenges like being a full-time theological education administrator and parent during his doctoral work, Wondimu persevered. His journey was upheld by his family, church, advisors and supportive communities.

Now overseeing 14 colleges, 175 Bible schools and other training initiatives for the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church, Wondimu can directly apply the insights gained from his research. He has spearheaded efforts to revise curriculum using an integral philosophy. His influential roles also include developing new degree programs, training faculty and administrators, and contributing to an inter-denominational curriculum for theological education oversight.

For Wondimu, the PhD represented far more than an academic pursuit – it was a means to help reshape Christian education in his homeland and century-old church. By gaining expertise in curriculum design, he is equipping the next generation of scholars and ministers with a more holistic biblical worldview.

Wondimu’s journey reminds us that the path toward impactful Christian leadership often arises from life’s deepest disappointments, unresolved questions, and areas of personal experience crying out for renewal. His doctoral work is an inspiring example of leveraging one’s distinct story and surroundings as a catalyst for positive change.

Wondimu Abebe Kediso Thesis

PhD Thesis on ‘Curriculum for Ministerial Education: A Critical Appraisal of the of the Curriculum of Amharic Bible Schools of the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (EKHC)

In this thesis Wondimu explores selected theories of curriculum development and investigates how these assumptions influenced the way curriculum and education was perceived and managed in the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Bible schools. His findings suggest that the curricular thinking of the West (European and American) and East (Russian) has heavily influenced the Ethiopian education system since the outset of the 20 th century. As products of the work of SIM missionaries and institutions subject to the impact of the national education system, this study indicates that EKHC’s Bible Schools’ curriculum is not free from foreign influence. It also shows that curricular initiatives are hugely hampered by an over-emphasis on the top-down approach, failure to maintain a sense of ownership, and a lack of teachers’ empowerment and involvement in the formation and implementation of the curriculum. Consequently, the curriculum under consideration could not integrally address the needs of students and the church . On the positive side, the thesis proposes a new approach – the integral development theory as the best model to fill the gap and facilitate the provision of theological education holistically.


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