Romesh Gunasekara I had a diverse education that started in Sri Lanka in the 1950s, continued in the Philippines and then concluded in Britain. But I wasn't that good a student and for the most part I didn't really care that much about school. I think teachers lose sight of the fact that kids are experiencing all kinds of anxieties and changes as they are growing up and that they were children once themselves. The early part of my education in Colombo, Sri Lanka, was memorable for the upheaval in educational reforms that the country was undergoing. There was a big push to enrol all students in school, which led to great pressures as they had to educate two intakes a day instead of the previous one. The resulting challenge was trying to match this with more resources and one of the difficulties was that there simply weren't enough teaching staff. I seem to remember we had an English teacher who couldn't even speak English. The period was also marked by the political turmoil that the island was experiencing between the majority Sinhalese and the Tamil minority, who lived mainly in the north. In that respect, Colombo didn't feel like a normal or even a real city, particularly if I were to compare it to other places we lived in later on. Dad worked with the Asian Development Bank and was transferred to the Philippines when I was a teenager. Moving there, I found that I actually liked some of the teachers. Back in Sri Lanka there were none that I remember or cared about and now I think that good teachers in the broadest sense of the word are not only important but difficult to find. In the Philippines, a couple of the English teachers really engaged me in literature. I started to read books and, because the education system there was geared more to the US, I think there was a wide-ranging exposure to different kinds of reading matter. Whereas, for example, the US style looks at a wider range of works, selecting key scenes from them, the British approach is to study just two or three works in much greater depth. Both, of course, have their strengths and weaknesses. I also liked writing and would create stories and poems. We moved to London, where I did my A-levels, and it was there that I really started to read serious literature. I studied the texts of Milton, Blake, Shakespeare and E.M. Forster and it was then, at 17, that I found Milton's writing was amazing - the beauty of it just took my breath away. But it was really at university in Liverpool in the 1970s where I developed my passion for reading and writing. I'd opted for a combined degree course which was composed of four or five different arts-based subjects comprising different modules, but over time it was English that I gravitated towards. I liked having the time to pursue what I wanted to. It seemed you did actually read for a subject in those days. Now it seems you just do a degree. I decided I wanted to be a writer and I can't imagine not doing so now. I think I'd shrivel up if I didn't, so it's obviously important for my sanity. If I look back on my life, I realise I had a privileged upbringing, travelling to different countries because of my father's job, but I don't think you need that to see the 'bigger world'. It seems to me the main thing about school is that it teaches you to have an open mind and how to keep it fresh. You also learn as much from your fellow students as from your teachers. Good teachers will immerse you in different experiences; poor ones just close your mind. What's also important to remember is that schooldays are just a small part of a bigger game and they really do seem very short compared with the rest of your life.