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When (or, for which grades) should one use "professeur", and when (again, for which grades) "maître/maîtresse"? Is there any accurate difference between these words?

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    Watch out, anything that relates to school vocabulary is very much linked to the legal terminology of each national education system. You will probably have an answer that applies to the French school system, but that may not apply to other French-speaking countries. – Greg Apr 3 '20 at 5:53
  • Thank you Mr. Greg, but I didn't have any answer, that's why I asked this question! – user24121 Apr 4 '20 at 18:39
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I speak for France, I have no experience of other french-speaking countries. The terms "maître" and "maîtresse" are used in primary schools, that is to say from the CP (cours préparatoire, usually 6 years old) until the CM2 (cours moyen 2, usually 10 years old). As said by Greg, primary schools teachers are officially called "professeurs des écoles" but pupils usually call them by these names. In higher education, i.e. secondary schools (collèges and lycées) and universities, you usually use "monsieur" or "madame" to address a professor. I have personally never used "professeur".

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  • Welcome to French Stack Exchange! That is clearly a correct and good answer for France that got my +1. Do not hesitate to check out our code of conduct :) – JKHA Apr 3 '20 at 21:02
  • Thank you for your response. – user24121 Apr 4 '20 at 18:40
  • Do the pupils still call their teacher maître/maîtresse when talking to them? I was under the impression it was a very outdated usage. Same thing actually when talking about them. The TV series is called "L'instit'", not "Le maître", for example. – Laurent S. Apr 5 '20 at 7:48
  • Yes, they do. Actually the TV series is itself quite outdated (last episode dates back to 2005)... – ClariB Apr 6 '20 at 11:35
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I went to school in french speaking Belgium, but it's the exact same in France. At age 11-12 (depending when your birthday is) kids move from the primary school (école primaire) to the secondary school (école secondaire). It is in secondary school that children start to address teachers with Professeur, simply because many teachers in secondary are actually professors, that is to say, they went beyond a master's degree and got a 'doctorat' and became professors. Most of our physics and math teachers in secondary were actual professors (people with a PhD). But you simply address everyone with professor in secondary. So you have Professeur de collège, Professeur de lycée etc. There's no such thing in primary school, we never addressed a teacher with professeur until we were in secondary.

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    I also went to school to Belgium, but I know for sure that the usage is definitely different in France: in French primary schools, teachers are officially called professeurs des écoles (whereas Belgians will call them "instituteurs"). And I sincerely suspect you might be out of a touch with the current reality in schools: most teachers in secondary levels hold a bachelor or a master, not a PhD. Plus, nowadays, pupils rarely address secondary teachers as "professeur" but rather simply as "monsieur/madame". – Greg Apr 3 '20 at 5:11
  • Thank you for your response, Mr. or Ms. "user24137". I'm from Iran, and didn't know if secondary school teachers in Belgium have "doctorat" degrees. Here in Iran, Most secondary school teachers have master's degrees, while people with "doctorat" degrees usually teach in universities. – user24121 Apr 4 '20 at 18:45
  • Thanks again, Mr. Greg. If you're right, then French schools are somehow the same as Iranian schools. – user24121 Apr 4 '20 at 18:48
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    This answer is mostly wrong about Belgium. Very few secondary teachers have a PhD and only the ones teaching in 4th,5th or 6th year are required to hold a master (even there with some specificities depending whether you're teaching general or technical/professional school). Very few people with a PhD would want to work as a secondary teacher from what I know. – Laurent S. Apr 4 '20 at 19:14
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I'm teacher in belgian secondary school. In primary school (6-11 years old), the pupils call " Madame/Monsieur" with the first name or family name. Officially they are "instituteurs". They have studied during 3 years in high school. In secondary school, (12-18 years old), the pupils call "Madame/Monsieur" with the family name but between them they say "Mon prof de" + matière OU "Madame/Monsieur" + family name. But officially we are "enseignants". For the 1st-2d-3d level, we can go to the high school (3years) or to the universities (5years). For the 4th-5th-6th level, we can only go to the universities (5years). We are not PhD. In universities, they are called by students and officially "professeurs". But there are also "assistants", who are not professeur but can help students. They are PhD after few years and when there is a "place vacante".

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  • Thank you Mr. or Ms. "CDW" for your response. So, can one say that primary school teachers are "les instituteurs", while secondary school teachers and university teachers are "les enseignants" and "les professeurs", respectively? If yes, what about the words "maître/maîtresse"? – user24121 Apr 4 '20 at 18:51
  • Ceci ne répond pas vraiment à la question (tu n'y parles pas de "maître/maîtresse") et s'étend sur des sujets non à-propos. De plus le terme "enseignant" regroupe tout le corps enseignant, des maternelles à l'université et les enseignants de secondaire sont communément appelés professeurs ou profs, pas seulement par leurs élèves. – Laurent S. Apr 4 '20 at 19:04

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