Mr Lai Chung Han was appointed Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education on 1 April 2019. Prior to that, he was the Second Permanent Secretary of Education and Home Affairs from 2017. Mr Lai is also the Patron of the Academy of Principals (Singapore).
Mr Lai is a member of the NUS Board of Trustees and SMU Board of Trustees. He also chairs the National Institute of Education Council.
Before joining MOE, Mr Lai spent 25 years in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as a naval officer and was promoted to Rear Admiral (Two Stars) before assuming the appointment of Chief of Navy (CNV) on 1 August 2014. Mr Lai also held various senior staff appointments in the Ministry of Defence. He was Director (Policy) from December 2007 to October 2010. In August 2012, Mr Lai assumed the appointment of Deputy Secretary (Policy) with responsibilities for defence policy, strategic communications and national education.
Mr Lai was enlisted into the SAF in January 1992 and was awarded the prestigious President’s Scholarship and Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (First Class Honours) in Economics from Cambridge University, UK. Mr Lai was also awarded the SAF Overseas Postgraduate Scholarship (General Development) in 2006, and graduated with a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University, USA. He also graduated from the US Naval Staff College course in 2002, conducted at the US Naval War College.
Mr Lai was awarded the Public Administration Medal, Gold (Military) – Pingat Pentadbiran Awam, Emas (Tentera) in 2016, and the Long Service Medal (Military) in 2017. In 2016, Mr Lai received the Knight Grand Cross (First Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand Medal from the Thai Government. In 2018, the Indonesian Government conferred the Bintang Jalasena Utama (Navy Meritorious Service Star [First Class]) on Mr Lai.