(October 7, 2021) Anjum Babukhan’s is an unconventional story. Born and brought up in Chicago, she moved to India for her husband. But where she could’ve basked in the glory of her new life, she decided instead to channel her energies into branching out on her own. A keen learner herself, she found the education system in the country outdated and set out to make a change in her own small way. She founded Glendale Academy, a co-education school that laid an emphasis on holistic growth and a nurturing environment, in Hyderabad. The concept clicked and today, the brand has flourished into a chain of private schools that was ranked number 1 in Telangana and at number 8 in India by Education World.
For close to three decades now, Anjum has striven to transform lives through education, which remains her top priority even today. Otherwise, the award-winning educationist can teach you a thing or two about martial art form like Tai Chi or Chinese exercise Qigong, show off her urban sketching skills and Yin-Yang art, display her Ikebana expertise, become a dance choreographer or wow people with her Zumba and Yoga moves. In everything that she does, Anjum sets the standards high.
By leaps and bounds
“I do my best and let god do the rest,” smiles Anjum, settling down for an exclusive interview with Global Indian. Her desire to achieve and a passion to convert her dreams into reality led to the birth of Glendale Academy. She took off with one school in the early 2000s; 25 years later, Glendale has expanded by leaps and bounds.
“We now stand as number 1 in Telangana and top 10 in India; we are known for our pedagogy – the art of teaching and holistic curricular approach more than anything else,” informs a beaming Anjum, the Director of Glendale, as she looks back at her illustrious journey.
From America to Hyderabad
Born and raised in Chicago in the United States in a conservative family, Anjum is the eldest of four siblings. Her Indian Muslim parents immigrated from Hyderabad in the 1970s. “I keep traversing between continents, cultures and conditions. Whether it was adapting as a bicultural child of immigrants in the US to moving halfway across the world to India and adjusting to the social constructs of the society here, I pick out elements of what I choose to harmonize in my symphony of multi-layered and multi-cultural being,” says Anjum.
She was a high honor roll student, who won several scholarships on graduating from high school before she went on to study Psychology in the honors program at Loyola University, Chicago. While in her last year at the University, Anjum met an international student from Hyderabad, Salman Babukhan, whom she married after college. Anjum moved to India in 1995 after pursuing her Masters in Education Administration and Instructional Leadership at University of Illinois.
Within months of her settling down in India, she discovered the education system here was outdated and rigid. She wanted to change things, so Anjum set out on a mission. “We wanted to create nurturing spaces that develop every child’s multiple intelligence spectrum, physical capabilities, creative potential, 21st Century life skills and multicultural awareness. At Glendale, our focus has always been and remains on cultivating competence and character,” she informs.
A lifelong learner, Anjum is not only keen on sharing her knowledge, but also adapts and evolves with the changing times. “Everyone changes and everyone evolves. From my teens, 20s, 30s, and now in my 40s, I have grown more effective in my career, confident in capacities, resilient in challenges and comfortable within my own being as time moves forward. In the biological paradigm, those who adapt not only survive, but thrive,” says the mother of three.
Anjum has many feathers in her academic cap. Among them are the outstanding academic achievement awards in the Presidential Academic fitness awards program signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1987 and President George HW Bush in 1990, as well as an “academic and leadership excellence” award presented by Hyderabad foundation of Chicago.
The eternal Global Indian
Describing herself as a Global Indian American Muslim, Anjum is constantly pushing the boundaries. Even now, she is strong in her academic pursuits in her quest for lifelong learning. With courses like Strategy in Action and Project Zero from Harvard, courses from Cambridge and recently a Design Thinking course from Stanford D school, she exemplifies her motto of learning every day. The visionary leader that she is, Anjum says she loves to learn anything that contributes to building her own multiple intelligence spectrum.
“One should explore their many sides across identities, capacities, cultures and ways of knowing the world. Every aspect one has in them can be channelized and optimized. There is no one like you and never will be. Be the best version of yourself always,” she advises all those embarking on a journey. A globetrotter, Anjum says she keeps wanting to bridge the best of both worlds with what she likes and lives in both places. “I guess we are all travelers in this world,” says Anjum, who is also a TEDx speaker.
Staying true to her roots
With an experience of over two and half decades in implementing the best teaching methodologies, she has also authored a book, ABCs of Brain Compatible Learning, which is a guide for all educators.
The one Indian-ness, she says, that remains with her is the Hindustani language, be it Urdu or Hindi, which is a way to know, enjoy and be enriched by culture. “Nothing can be as colorful and vibrant as ethnic apparel and accessories. But even if I feel comfortable with the secular and pluralistic ideals of countries I call my own, my belonging may be questioned by the right-wing powers of the majority at times, whether it is in the US or India,” says Anjum, who has won innumerable awards, accolades and recognition not just individually but for her institutions as well.
Anjum, who received an honorary doctorate in education by the National American University and National Institute of Education and Research, has an interesting take on Brand India. “As long as Brand India maintains its pluralism, secularism and humane values on which the nation was founded upon, it will grow stronger, taller and wider by harnessing the strength of unity in diversity. If it is inclusive, striving for justice and opportunity for all, Brand India will be a potent force like no other.”
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