“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think” Socrates

And that is just what Socrates did! He helped others learn how to think and analyze different aspects of the world around them.

You might not know it, but Socrates was a tutor. He personally tutored Aristotle, who in turn tutored Alexander the Great. This is one of the few examples that show how far back in time tutoring can be traced back to. The historical roots of tutoring can be seen in these ancient times, long before the learning institution such as school came to light.

As education systems began to be formalized throughout the globe, tutoring as we know it today rose in popularity. Traditional academic tutoring for literature, math, and science have always been the most sought out subjects for tutees. However, as the industry has developed, one-on-one tutoring has also become attractive to those who want to be tutored in sports, arts, and other leisures.

The best tutors, past and present, know how to help students develop study skills to reach their highest potential of academic achievement.

Tutoring in Ancient Times

Tutoring is sometimes seen as the oldest teaching method. In the times of Ancient Greece, masters of multiple arts and knowledge tutored the children of royalty. This method of passing down information in a private setting sets the foundation to what we now refer to as tutoring.

the past history of tutoring
Tutoring can be traced to ancient times, including the era of the Roman Empire. (Photo by Phil Goodwin on Unsplash)

Tutoring as supplemental instruction is a modern perspective. In ancient times, tutoring was the only source of education and reserved exclusively for those in elite families.

The tutee was usually a member of a royal family. Tutoring jobs were reserved for highly intellectual masters.

Ancient tutors in the Western world consisted of philosophers, writers, and sophists. They were expected to teach their pupils about much more than academic knowledge. Student success was measured by more than just academic performance, rather tutees needed to also know how to function in a social setting. 

Private tutors helped students with writing assignments as well as learning social norms.

In the past, there were other forms of tutoring such as apprenticeships. This was how young people entered a profession or trade. Most tradesmen had one or two apprentices that tried to pick up on the techniques of the trade by helping out.

These forms of education, tutoring, and apprenticeships, began to evolve as more formalized methods of schooling became more common. Academic resources where centralized in secondary schools and universities and individual tutoring took a back seat.

Formalizing Education

In the Western world, we can trace back formal education systems to that of the High Middle Ages. School at this time were usually based on religious education and used to train clerics. These would be more closely related to universities, rather than schools.

old school house
Formal schools were originally taught in large school houses. (Photo by Daniel Tuttle on Unsplash)

The tradition of colleges and universities developed over time in Europe and eventually spread to America during the age of colonization. Formalized education certification became the norm.

The first American schools opened their doors in the 17th century. These were the first taxpayer-supported public schools. By the mid 19th century, the roles of schools had grown past justing teach religious aspects, and they grew to teach arithmetic and literature. Academic skills such as writing skills and reading comprehension were seen as crucial student services that the schools needed to provide.

Some colonies like Massachusetts made formal education obligatory for residents of the colony. However the attendees of these schools were mostly young boys, girls were not openly welcomed to schools until later on.

Once a formal education system is established, we can begin to see the origins of what we now call private tuition.

The dictionary definition of a tutor is someone who gives additional, special and basic instruction to a student in addition to education provided to them by a teacher or a school system.

We can see an example of this modern form of tutoring in the early years of Harvard College. Many students who wanted to attend Harvard needed to be additionally tutored in Latin since most textbooks were still written in the ancient language. A tutoring program was set up to help those currently enrolled understand Latin and how to correctly read through the dense textbooks. 

As the popularity and qualifications of colleges grew, schools began to provide tutors to those who were not academically ready for the tough courses. Writing tutors, math tutoring, and additional study groups were made available to assist students in college-level education.

Tutoring also began to grow in the education of younger pupils. In these early stages, it was something that only a wealthy family could afford, but as more schools began to see the benefits of more individualized attention, tutoring programs began to grow.

Tutoring Today

In today’s world, tutoring is available to most people. Tutoring might look different around the world but it has become more accessible to populations over time.

There are hundreds of tutoring agencies available to assist both you and your student.  You will also be to find tutors through your child's school or at a local organization. Ask if there is a tutoring center at your child's school.

one-on-one tutoring
One one one tutoring has become more popular in recent years. (Photo by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash)

Today, tutoring can come in many forms. For students, there is home tutoring, online tutoring, tutoring centers, group tutoring, shadow education, and peer tutoring.

The accessibility of tutors is important and crucial in the growth of a child. The access to personalized attention can make a world of a difference to a child that is struggling in the classroom.

Tutoring has also evolved to include topics that do not fall in the sectors of academia. Students can now find tutors for just about everything. There is a great variety of subjects students can be tutored in.

You can now take private lessons in everything from musical instruments like the guitar and the piano to sports such as swimming and soccer.

There is a tutor for everything and everyone. Here are some of the common subjects you can find a tutor for:

  • Test prep for the GRE, SAT, ACT, PSAT, LSAT, or MCAT
  • Language lessons for French, Spanish, German, or Mandarin
  • Math including in calculus, algebra, or trigonometry
  • Science including in chemistry, biology, or physics

You can find a tutor for even the most diverse subjects. You can start looking for your tutor right here on Superprof!

Governments have also seen the positive effects of tutoring and many states have come up with programs for free or reduced-price tutoring services.

Find out where and how you can find access to a tutor by reading about private tutoring in the US.

The Future of Tutoring

In the US the tutoring industry has accounted for billions of dollars in revenue since its boom in the early 2000s. The market is currently growing at a rate of 7.64% between 2019 and 2023.

the growing market of tutoring
The future of the tutoring world is looking to be very profitable. (Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash)

The exponential growth of this industry is due to the rise of tutoring agencies, private tutoring, and online tutoring opportunities.

One of the most fundamental changes to the world of tutoring is the introduction of new technology. Since the introduction of the Internet, thousands of websites and platforms have made tutoring available to just about everyone. It is no longer reserved for the elite.

Socrates would be surprised with the advances of modern tutoring.

For those that cannot budget to spend too much money on tutors, there are multiple apps and online platforms that help with explaining basic instruction. Even YouTube can serve as a tutor. Instructors can choose to upload content that can be reached from anywhere on the globe by anyone with an Internet connection.

The academic success brought to students through tutoring companies, peer tutors, and other support services can drastically change the life of a student, it can also have a great impact on the tutor.

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