How can Cambodia make higher education relevant to the labour market needs?


No doubt, Cambodian higher education has grown over the past decade. Stakeholders, nevertheless, continue to lament about its lack of relevance to the job market. Are there any ways Cambodia can do to improve? In this article, I raise a few points that may help Cambodia to assure that skills and competencies university graduates gained are appropriate to the broader social and economic needs.

Cambodian higher education institutions (HEIs) need to revise their curricula to meet the evolving workplace and societal needs. They should focus more on technical skills and core skills, which include decision making, communication, collaboration, computer skills, client-orientation skills, problem-solving, individual initiative, creative thinking, and fluency in international languages, especially English.

Faculty members must be involved in the process from the beginning as they are a significant player in the implementation. Indeed, the success, or lack thereof, of the curriculum implementation, as the Task Force on Higher Education and Society (2000) points out, depends on these people. Coordination and consultation with them should, therefore, be carried out to avoid content repetition and redundancy.

Meanwhile, it is crucial to integrate employers and the community representatives into the curriculum development/revision process. The views, perceptions, and contributions these groups bring to the table can offer new possibilities for student learning experiences and will ensure that the curricular are relevant to employment and social goals. Equally important, HEIs themselves should frequently review and renew the curriculum in anticipation of possible changes in the skills needed in the labour market.

In line with the international practices, Cambodia does need a reliable labour market information system to produce, update, and distribute information on current and future skill demands. Such information plays a critical role in strengthening the connections between higher education and the labour market, but it is not yet available. Timely information about labour market outcomes and employment requirements can be obtained by conducting surveys of graduates and employers. These people can provide feedback about the workplace relevance of the higher education courses and programs that can help policymakers to decide which to offer and which to close. At present some public and private institutions have conducted graduate tracer studies. Tracer studies should, however, be widely promoted within the higher education sector to monitor graduate supply and demand and destinations of graduates from different disciplines.

Cambodia should also mobilise resources to establish career guidance in secondary schools to help students make decisions about their field of university study for those students, as many stakeholders in my recent research suggest, often have inadequate knowledge and unrealistic expectations about the job market.


Task Force on Higher Education and Society. (2000). Higher education in developing societies: Peril and promise. Washington, DC: World Bank Publishing.

5 Comments on “How can Cambodia make higher education relevant to the labour market needs?

  1. Pingback: How can Cambodia make higher education relevant to the labour market needs? – The Smile

  2. “Timely information about labour market outcomes and employment requirements can be obtained by conducting surveys of graduates and employers.”

    I like your words above a lot. These days undergraduate students still read about the past and this won’t make them ready for their future jobs available in the market.

    These days graduates often find their job teaches them how to do it, not universities because what they studied is too different from actual task.


    • A spot-on comment! And it is regrettable when the hiring managers admit to recruiting just about anybody, knowing quite clearly that they would need to provide training to ensure they can do their job. It will benefit every stakeholder if the universities and the employers work together to narrow the disconnect between their academic programs and actual needs. A national body should be able to promote and coordinate such activity.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really love to read your article Dr. Sopheap since it can help enhance the quality of rearranging curriculum to improve Cambodian education especially to give more opportunities to young people with newly great ideas which will in the future be capable of developing Cambodian society. As I have noticed from what I learned so far, I believe that learning from curriculum or formal education is not capable enough for student to see their potential competencies unless they have more opportunities to interact and knowledge from job-related experiences, so internship, fellowship, training, and exchange program both domestic and international should be given more for student to have a chance to interact and engage themselves with students from different areas to exchange their new different idea toward social changes and innovation. In short, I believe that the 10:20:70 Model for Learning and Development is the best formula to improve professionalism since students often gain 10% of new knowledge from formal education, 20% from interactions with others, and finally 70% from practical working experiences as the external curriculum. Thank you for your sharing, and I’m glad to see more fascinating articles from you

    From International Studies student, IFL, RUPP


    • Exactly, Chanraksa! A degree is not enough! There need to be those three aspects that can help each graduate to cope with the changing work environment and demands. Yes, internships, fellowships, training, and exchange programs inside and outside the country must be put in place to help students immerse themselves in their field of study and build their credentials. In the meantime, students should educate themselves about their area of interest and the labor market needs before enrollment. Also, volunteer work can sure give them a great tool to learn some practical skills that are mostly absent at the university.


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