HENG Mary Anne

Associate Professor

Associate Dean, Higher Degrees & Strategic Partnerships

Policy, Curriculum and Leadership (PCL), Office of Graduate Studies and Professional Learning (GPL)

Office Location

EdD (1999) Teachers College, Columbia University


Office Telephone Number

Research Interests
Youth purpose; meaning and wellbeing; Curriculum innovation; leadership and transformative educational change; Differentiation of curriculum and teaching for diverse learners in the regular classroom

  • Mary Anne Heng is Associate Dean, Higher Degrees and Strategic Partnerships and Associate Professor, Policy, Curriculum, and Leadership at the National Institute of Education (NIE), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore. As Associate Dean at NIE, she provides academic, intellectual and administrative leadership for the conceptualisation, development and implementation of NIE’s graduate programmes. Specifically, these include: NIE Doctor in Education, Doctor in Education Dual Award by NIE, NTU and University College London Institute of Education, Master of Arts in Leadership and Educational Change joint programme by NIE, NTU and Teachers College, Columbia University, and Master of Arts in Professional Education. Prior to her current position, she was Acting Head, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning (2006 - 2015), and as Head, Early Childhood and Special Needs Education (2004 - 2005) and Head, Specialised Education (2002 - 2004) at NIE, she oversaw and provided leadership in the teaching and research programmes in the areas of gifted education, special needs education and early childhood education. As Director, Master of Arts in Leadership and Educational Change (2012 - 2015), a signature programme jointly offered by NIE, NTU and Teachers College, Columbia University, she provided academic and administrative leadership for the first graduate programme worldwide with a dual focus on organisational and curriculum leadership for a new generation of senior education leaders in Singapore and the region.

    Mary Anne obtained her doctorate in curriculum and teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University, USA under the Nanyang Technological University Overseas Graduate Scholarship. She was awarded the International Student Scholarship and Milestone Award from Teachers College, Columbia University for academic excellence in her doctoral studies. Mary Anne holds a Master of Education and a Bachelor of Science (Upper Class Honours) in Physics from the National University of Singapore. She completed a selective leadership programme for women professors and administrators at the prestigious Summer Institute for Women in Higher Education Administration at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania in 2006.

    Mary Anne has a trajectory of research and publications in the areas of youth purpose and meaning, educational change and the future of schooling, curriculum and teacher leadership, teacher and student learning, differentiated instruction, gifted and special needs education. She has been the Principal Investigator (PI) of several major grants, of which three are international research partnerships with Israel and the USA in the areas of youth purpose, meaning, life satisfaction or wellbeing and gifted education. Her research projects on youth purpose are the first in-depth studies in Singapore to tackle the question of purpose and meaning head-on to find out from adolescents what matter in school, and to open up discussions about what is good education and what it should look like in Singapore schools. She believes that what our youth tell us about purpose and meaning can become much more than a guidepost or inspiration; these indicators tell us about the wellbeing of our children and can become an organising principle for curriculum decisions, educational policy and governance. More recently, she has been the PI of an interdisciplinary research partnership project that brings together the fields of education and health sciences. In collaboration with a senior clinician and professor at a public hospital in Singapore, the research advances the novel contribution of the biopsychosocial paradigm in education to investigate the relationships between life purpose, meaning, social support, psychological states and somatic symptoms. The study problematises Singapore’s high-achieving education system, investigates relatively unexamined aspects of schooling as experienced by students, and serves as a catalyst in uncovering and addressing the criticality of what really matters in Singapore schooling and how these impact adolescent development. Mary Anne received a research award from the Research and Evaluation Division of the National Association for Gifted Children, USA.

    Her most recent book is “Curriculum leadership by middle leaders: Theory, design and practice” (Routledge, 2017; co-edited with Kelvin Tan and Christina Ratnam-Lim). Her peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters have appeared in Teachers College Press, Journal of Moral Education, The Curriculum Journal, Teaching in Higher Education, Educational Leadership, Educational Studies in Mathematics, Educational Studies, Gifted Child Quarterly, Journal for the Education of the Gifted, Gifted and Talented International, Journal of Special Education, Preventing School Failure, Teacher Education and Special Education, and Intervention in School and Clinic. Mary Anne is currently writing a sole-authored book, “Finding purpose in high-performance schooling” (Routledge) that calls for a new imperative and educational change that emphasises both the academic and the human purposes of schooling.

    An excellent and dedicated teacher, Mary Anne received two NIE teaching commendation awards. She provides strong mentorship to her students and has taught graduate, leadership, pre-service and in-service courses at NIE. Several of her doctoral students she supervised are in senior academic and leadership positions in universities and schools in Singapore. Mary Anne pioneered the use of clinical interviews in the classroom as a powerful approach to formative assessment and an impetus for curriculum leaders to lead and facilitate critical deliberations about defensible differentiation of curriculum and teaching for deep and engaged student learning. Before joining NIE, she taught Physics at Raffles Institution and Nanyang Junior College, and served as an Officer at the Defence Science Organisation, Singapore.

    Mary Anne has been invited to present at keynote addresses and seminars internationally (e.g., China, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia) and locally. She served as grant reviewer for competitive external grants such as the Temasek Foundation Singapore Millennium Foundation Grant Programme and External Examiner, Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) Primary and PGDE Secondary programmes for The Chinese University of Hong Kong. At NIE, she leads the planning and organisation of the NIE Higher Degrees Distinguished Speaker Series (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) and the NIE-Teachers College Symposium (2019, 2020). These are NIE’s flagship annual events that host outstanding international professors in education and education-related disciplines, with the aim of stimulating academic discussions and encouraging scholarship in critical issues in graduate education and research for Singapore schools and the broader education community. She is the Series Editor for the NIE Higher Degrees Distinguished Speaker Series publications 2017, 2018 and 2019, with a double feature on the NIE-Teachers College Symposium in 2019.