Developing employability skills through curriculum design and implementation: A case study of English language education in Cambodia

Sathya CHEA

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Theses


There is an increasing demand for a skilled and flexible workforce in Cambodia, as the country‘s economy has been increasingly globalized and knowledge-based. In this context, Cambodian university students need to possess various skills required by the labor market to facilitate their transition to work. Indeed, to upskill its labor force, Cambodia has incorporated employability skills development in its national policy on higher education. Thus, employability skills development has been an important topic for discussion in the country. However, the existing literature is insufficient to provide a comprehensive understanding of employability skills development in higher education. Most existing research on the topic focuses on classroom teaching and learning, but neglects curriculum planning and development. Moreover, research on how student engagement, which is considered essential in contemporary education, contributes to employability skills development is lacking. To fill these knowledge gaps, this study selects an English program at a renowned university in Cambodia as a case to examine how employability skills are developed through curriculum development and student engagement.
The present study employed a curriculum development framework, which were dissected into two connected frameworks. The first was the curriculum development stage, in which curriculum developers needed to screen both external and internal environmental factors to determine what knowledge, skills, and attributes to be incorporated into the curriculum and how to teach them. The second stage was the curriculum implementation, which, in the present study, was equated with the teaching and learning practices at the classroom level. In this stage, teaching and learning practices were assumed to enhance student engagement. Thus, a student engagement framework was employed.
This study employed a mixed-method design, in which a qualitative study was conducted to investigate the participants‘ perception of student engagement, its antecedents, and the list of employability skills the participants thought the English program at the Department of English taught. Based on the findings of this qualitative research, a quantitative study was developed and conducted test a model in which student engagement was assumed to mediate the relationship between classroom, institutional, and personal factors and employability skills development. The present study employed instruments that comprised 38 semi-structured interviews and a smallscale Survey. Using purposive and snowball sampling methods, the study secured interview data from six management team members, ten lecturers and 22 senior year students and graduates. The interviews were conducted to gain the information regarding the experiences and perception of the three main stakeholders on the curriculum design and delivery at Department of English to ensure employability skills development. The survey collected data from a sample of 373 senioryear students. The questionnaire used was adapted from the Course Experience Questionnaire, with some additional questions generated from the results of the interviews and document analyses. The survey tested a model that assumed student engagement to mediate the relationship between institutional, classroom and personal factors and employability skills development.
Three findings emerged from the analysis of the interview data. First, the case program was responsive to labor market demand, which largely explained the emergence of employability skills in the curriculum. Second, employability skills were taught through a combined approach, which includes an implicit way that embeds skills in the core curriculum and an explicit way that refers to formulation of skills related stand-alone subjects. Third, student engagement was relevant to employability skills development and could be promoted by effective teaching and learning practices. This finding indicated that though student-centered approach was appreciated, teacher-center approach was somewhat needed to ensure effective employability skills development. As for the survey findings, the mediational analysis confirmed the mediating role of student engagement in the relationship between various factors in employability skills development.
These findings provide insights into factors that influence employability skills development through curriculum design and delivery in higher education. The insight on the connection between employability skills development and student engagement reminds university curriculum developers and teachers to be sensitive to the balance between teachercentered and student-centered methods. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • The Education University of Hong Kong
  • LO, Yat Wai, Supervisor
  • TANG, Hei Hang, Hayes 鄧希恒, Supervisor
  • HALSE, Christine Margaret, Supervisor
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Employability skills development
  • Higher education
  • Curriculum development and implementation
  • Student engagement
  • Cambodia
  • Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Education University of Hong Kong, 2022


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