WHILE today's evening course students tend to be more hard-nosed when choosing their courses than their predecessors, there has traditionally been a strong social aspect to evening classes. Has the social side of evening classes survived the recession?
The social side of evening classes was best captured by the late Maeve Binchy in her 1996 novel 'Evening Class', which chronicled the trials and tribulations of an unlikely group of evening class students of Italian.
But how real was the picture painted in the novel, or was Ms Binchy guilty of employing a certain amount of artistic licence? Not necessarily. While many of today's evening class students might be judged to have more mercenary motives than those of yesteryear, being largely focused on self-improvement rather than merely broadening their intellectual horizons, the social aspect of evening classes is not yet dead.
"Some people return (to do evening classes) again and again. It is nearly a social outlet for some people. They meet people doing other courses in the corridors and during tea breaks," says Rathmines College principal Bernadette Moore.
Anyone who has ever, even briefly, attended an evening class quickly learns to identify these "chronics" whose entire social life seems to revolve around signing up for an endless series of evening classes, year in and year out.
In Maeve Binchy's novel the evening class brings her eclectic cast of characters together and everyone lives, more or less, happily ever after bound by their common love of all things Italian.
A case of art imitating life or vice versa. We can only hope that today's evening class students will complete their studies with a similar sense of intellectual and emotional fulfilment.