Principal, Ngee Ann Secondary School

Adrian Lim Lye Heng is principal of Ngee Ann secondary school in Singapore, which is one of only 33 schools in the world to be given Microsoft’s highest level of recognition for incorporating technology into learning. Despite that, much of what the school does is simple and straightforward. “It’s really a very mindful use of technology, not using technology for technology’s sake,” he says.

The key to Adrian’s success is teacher training, and especially empowering teachers to experiment with better ways to use technology in their classrooms. “We are a middle school that behaves like a university,” says Adrian. “I treat my teachers as clinician-scientists. I challenge them to think about the technology and the teaching methods they use. They do research to bring the best methods into the classroom.” His teachers have so much independence, he says, that he’s often surprised by what they do. “I have lost count of the number of innovations in my school already,” he says with pride.

Adrian has also worked hard to redesign the physical layout of classrooms—for example, by creating smaller whiteboard spaces scattered around the room to encourage students to break into small groups for problem-solving, giving students projects such as designing long-term sustainable energy solutions using green energy like hydroelectric or solar.

Adrian’s vision for 2030 would be that schools apply social-media technologies to allow teachers to know individual students better, so that they can deliver a personalized learning pathway for every student.

In his spare time, Adrian loves to run and swim, and to learn new things. “I don’t see myself as a principal,” he says. “I see myself as an explorer, always trying to find new things to do.”