To secure a future with equality and abundance, these educators and their ideas are setting a strong foundation for young Asians

Recognising the role of education in achieving peace, equality and abundance, the United Nations has designated January 24 as the International Day of Education. In 2023, a time of unpredictability with the global recession and climate crisis, the UN emphasises the need to transform education, calling on the world to prioritise and invest in the human right and bring it closer to its ideal of being inclusive and equitable.

In the region, visionary changemakers on Asia’s Most Influential list recognise how education can empower individuals and lead to improvements in the world. They’ve focused their efforts on providing access to quality learning and education training through organisations that emphasise critical thinking, curiosity and cooperation. By strengthening education, these leaders are also nurturing future leaders and shaping a better tomorrow.

Also read: Asia’s top real estate magnates are building the cities of tomorrow

Yuan Li, Taiwan

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Yuan Li
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Yuan Li is the principal of Taipei Media School, an academic institution that breaks away from traditional educational curriculums to cultivate creativity and thinking. Described as a “specialist media training facility”, the Taipei Media School is an incubator for young creatives, particularly those in the film and television industry. Most intriguing in the audio-visual school is its focus on freedom, with students allowed to choose their courses and set their goals—a direction that ultimately instils the valuable skills of independent learning, responsibility and decision making. Admission is unconventional, too, favouring “interest and potential”, along with a relevant portfolio and experience, over academic performance. The school's experimental methods are geared toward producing graduates with unique points of view.

Read Yuan Li’s full profile on Asia’s Most Influential

Samuel Isaiah, Malaysia

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“I represent teachers who are trying to teach in a challenging way, trying to make their lessons in the classroom meaningful,” said Samuel Isaiah, who was honoured with the TRT World Citizen Educator Award in November 2022. With the goal of transforming Malaysian schools, the programme director of Pemimpin Global School Leaders has been working with teachers and school leaders through workshops, coaching sessions and development plans.

As the former teacher reported in an Instagram post, the past year has been successful for the non-profit organisation: “2022 recorded our best impact to date ever... We implemented three new scalable programmes that brought us from working with 200 to 2,000 schools, and 500 to 3,000 teachers and school leaders.”

Read Samuel Isaiah’s full profile on Asia’s Most Influential


Tan Eng Chye, Singapore

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“To meet the pressing challenges of our times, universities will need to develop new competencies and capabilities, and be bold enough to drive transformational change,” said Tan Eng Chye, president of the National University of Singapore (NUS), at the Temasek Foundation – NUS Programme for Leadership in University Management summit in November 2022. At the summit, the educator emphasised the importance of collaboration among universities in the region, an endeavour that the NUS programme has been championing for a decade. Continuing this thread, NUS also hosted the inaugural Times Higher Education conference in December 2022, where 300 delegates explored the role of universities in a post-Covid world. To meet present and future challenges, the academic once again prescribed “collaboration and imagination in problem-solving”, as well as a reexamination of how educational systems operate.

Read Tan Eng Chye’s full profile on Asia’s Most Influential


Yan Du, Hong Kong

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The art advocate and collector founded the London-based Asymmetry Art Foundation to nurture future curators, as well as widen the knowledge about Asian contemporary art. Asymmetry not only provides fellowships for curators and scholarships for art students across Europe, but it also organises discussions on, for example, online curating or transnational identities. In 2022, the foundation announced an international open call for a curatorial research fellowship at the Chisenhale Gallery in London. The 18-month post was granted “to an early career curator who identifies to any extent with Greater Chinese and Sinophone cultures and identities”.

Read Yan Du’s full profile on Asia’s Most Influential


Sky Yen, Taiwan

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To promote education equality in Taiwan, Sky Yen founded LIS (Learning Is Science) Education, a non-profit organisation that has developed teaching videos combining curriculum with animation to sustain the interest of children. Yen’s LIS emphasises science, training its students to think like scientists who apply both curiosity and logic to solve problems. For the institution, its methods underline the true purpose of education, which is to cultivate thinking and not just testing. 

Read Sky Yen’s full profile on Asia’s Most Influential


Melissa Gomes, Malaysia

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Through Edvolution Enterprise, Melissa Gomes is creating transformative education leaders in Malaysia. Its Teacher Empowerment for School Transformation (TEST) programme is designed to raise the quality of leadership and teaching skills, all of which lead to an improvement in student learning and competency. In a feature written for the non-profit organisation, Gomes, who has over a decade of experience in management consulting and education, also identifies how teachers should emphasise social and emotional learning, as well as adopt technology in their practice to succeed in the future.

Read Melissa Gomes’ full profile on Asia’s Most Influential

Pia D Bagamasbad, Philippines

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In order to “address the great need for our country to build a critical mass of STEM professionals to usher social and economic development, we must mentor and retain Filipino talent in the country,” says Pia D Bagamasbad, director of the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines Diliman, about the challenges of life science research. To nurture more STEM professionals, Bagamasbad developed the SARS-CoV-2 Testing Training Programme, which has been made available to more people through an online learning module. She also plans to mentor future scientists by developing research programmes.

Read Pia D Bagamasbad’s full profile on Asia’s Most Influential


Tatler Asia's Most Influential is the definitive list of people shaping our world today. Asia's Most Influential brings together the region's most innovative changemakers, industry titans and thought leaders who are driving positive impact in Asia and beyond. View the full list here.


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