You hire a tutor to get one-on-one tutoring. I was looking for lessons that students take with a tutor and I found private tutoring lessons. I have two questions:

  1. Can I use a private tutoring class to refer to a small group of students who hired a tutor? What if there is just one student and a tutor. Can I use class here, too? For example,

I have a [class] with my tutor at 4. I'm going to my [class].

  1. What's the opposite of private tutoring? Public teaching? For example,

I hate [public* classes]. [Public teaching] doesn't work. I prefer [private** classes].

*Classes with a lot of students in them; often associated with weak education.

**While you get one-on-one education with a tutor; often associated with a better quality than that of a public school.

Do the words I put within brackets sound natural in the sentences?


2 Answers 2


Classes are regularly scheduled, and have more than one student.

I take French class at school. Those are public classes.

Classes don't have to be at a public school, though.

My wife and I are taking a dance class offered by our church. We have lessons once a week.

In American English, tutoring usually refers to individual lessons in addition to those you are getting from a group elsewhere.

I am not very good at French, so I also see a tutor once a week. Also, because I am so good at biology, I have a tutor who is helping me prepare for the biology AP exam.

The distinction between public and private has to do with who pays, not who is allowed to be there. In the U.S. public schools are free to attend and are paid for by the state. Private schools are paid for entirely by those attending.

At the college/university level, public schools are subsidized by the government, but students have to provide some of the tuition themselves. Private colleges and universities are not subsidized, and are therefore much more expensive to attend.

A tutor could be private (unafiliated with my school) or could be provided by my school. If it really matters which type you have, you may have to specify it:

I am not very good at French, so I also see a tutor provided by my school. Also, because I am so good at biology, I hired a private tutor who is helping me prepare for the biology AP exam.

If you are doing some kind of individual study that isn't in addition to a group class, you might just call it lessons.

I am going to stop editing this answer now, because I have to go pick my daughter up from her piano lesson.

  • I think (but am not sure) that in other strains of English, "tutor(ing)" does not necessarily imply individual instruction (also known as one-on-one instruction).
    – Adam
    Apr 7, 2017 at 13:59

While it is not definitive, a class usually refers to a group of students. If your tutorials are with students one at a time, you would instead call them "lessons", or sometimes "sessions".

You might stay with this naming convention even if there are several students in the group. This helps distinguish what you do from a more formal "class" of students at an actual school.

Another way to look at it is that a "class" is independent of which students or how many students attend. You can have a class that you teach every week, and you still have that class even if, one week, no students show up. If instead you schedule the teaching around the student's (or students') schedule, then it's more of a "tutorial" or "session" or "group lesson".

The distinction between private and public lessons is simply that one is paid for by an individual or private institution, and the other is funded by some government agency. If your tutoring is to be paid by the students (or their parents), you would call these private lessons.

Lastly, if you are talking in general about the entire system of public schooling and publicly-funded teaching, you would refer to it as "public education" and "the public education system". Teachers who work in public education are "public school teachers."

I don't like the public education system. Public school teachers are given little freedom about what they may teach, and often are required to meet certain minimal scores on standardized tests, so they end up teaching "to the test" instead of creating interesting and entertaining lessons that engage students' attention.

  • 1
    I think "session" is a really good word to use in place of "class". I think that any fluent speaker would probably interpret "tutoring session" as an activity outside of normal class activities and wouldn't be concerned if it was one student or five participating.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 4, 2017 at 0:21
  • Thank you very informative it was, but i still have difficulty rephrasing my sentences in question 1. Is this OK based on what I get from your answer and @ColleenV 's? "I have a tutoring session at 4." and "I'm going to my tutoring session."
    – Yuri
    Apr 4, 2017 at 5:11
  • I think it might be helpful to show how you would phrase the two examples in the question. There is a difference between "private education" and "tutoring" that might not be clear from your final example sentence.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 4, 2017 at 12:04
  • @ColleenV as you suggested, i edited my question. I tried to make myself clear on the intended meaning of public and private.
    – Yuri
    Apr 7, 2017 at 7:35

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