Pupil vs. Student | Difference Between Pupil and Student

The main difference between pupil and student is that while the word “student” is often used as a term of reference for older students, the word “student” is generally used as an appropriate term of reference for younger students.

Children enrolled in primary schools are treated as pupils. Older students, such as those enrolled in colleges and university courses, are referred to as students rather than alumni. The word “student” is considered inappropriate in such circumstances.

“Student” is also used to refer to children studying under the guidance of private tutors. The term “pupil” connotes the young child’s need for close supervision. The term “student” denotes that the adult learner requires a marginal degree of supervision.

Comparison table between Pupil and Student

Comparison Parameters

Qualitative research

Quantitative investigation

Goal / Purpose

It aims to explore underlying ideas and formulate theories or hypotheses later.

It aims to test theories and hypotheses rather than explore them.


The analysis is carried out through summaries, categories and interpretations.

Analysis is performed using mathematical and statistical analysis


The results are expressed in simple words.

The results are expressed through tables, graphs and numbers.

Number of respondents

Based on only a few respondents

It depends on many respondents to elaborate

Nature of the questions

Use open questions

Use closed or multiple choice questions

Key terminologies

Subjectivity, complexity, context and understanding

American speakers prefer the term to denote students of all ages.

What is a Pupil?

A pupil is a term commonly used to refer to young students. Children generally under the age of 18 are known as alumni. The word comes from the Latin term ‘pupillus,’ which means ‘pupil’ or ‘lesser.’

Students require constant supervision from their teachers. They are usually minors, making them suitable for such close observation and regulation. In addition, the term also includes students studying under the guidance of supervisors and private tutors.

The term pupil is a preferred term of reference for the British population. They implement this distinction between new and old students quite firmly. However, the American population does not strictly adhere to this distinction and often uses the term as a synonym for the word student.

What is a student?

A student is an individual pursuing an education in a specific field of study. Originating from the Latin word ‘stadium,’ meaning study, the word ‘student’ refers to those over 18 who are enrolled in colleges and universities.

The level of supervision needed by students is generally lower than that of pupils, as they are older and are considered capable of managing themselves without constant adult intervention. The word student is often used in a figurative sense to connote an individual pursuing a course of study in the field of art and music.

Often the word pupil is used as a subset of the word pupil, as it denotes a subgroup of pupils under the general term pupils.

Main Differences Between Pupil and Student

  1. The main difference between pupil and student is in the connotation of each term. “Student” is considered a better and more appropriate term for younger learners, such as young children just beginning their educational journeys. At the same time, ‘student’ is considered an appropriate term of reference for older students, including students enrolled in higher education.
  2. The meaning of each of these words may also be slightly different. While “student” means trainees, “student” can mean trainees under the direct supervision of teachers. Students generally do not require the direct supervision of teachers. In addition, “student” can also mean students under the direction of private tutors.
  3. Each term’s preference is quite different among different geographic subgroups of the English-speaking population. Speakers of British English prefer the term ‘pupil’ to ‘student’ to refer to young students and those under the guidance of a private tutor. At the same time, American speakers may prefer the term student to refer to young and adult students of a discipline.
  4. Each of these two terms has its origin in different words. The word pupil has arisen from the Latin word ‘pupillus,’ which means ‘pupil’ or ‘lesser.’ Whereas, the word student has been derived from the Latin term “stadium,” which means “study.”
  5. Another difference between the two terms is that while ‘student’ can be used figuratively to refer to an individual who has dedicated their time to studying a special field such as art or music, pupil, however, cannot be used in a figurative sense.


The words Pupil and student are often used interchangeably by the English-speaking population. In general, their meanings are considered to be overwhelmingly similar. However, upon closer examination, these two terms are slightly different.

While the term student is more likely to be used for younger children who are enrolled in elementary schools, students are adult learners who are enrolled in colleges and universities. This usage is more appropriate for children under 18, while the term student is more appropriate for adults 18 and older.

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