In this paper, we undertake an analysis of the case of the gender achievement gap in Ontario and Canada as an exemplary instance of misrecognition in eliding systemic inequalities related to the effects of social class and racial differences in the education system. Such an investigation is situated within the context of what has been identified as a global education policy field with attention being accorded to the particular role of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s

and Goli Rezai-Rashti

(OECD) Program For International Student Assessment (PISA) constituting a space of equivalence for measuring comparative performance across nation states, with implications for further neoliberal forms and marketization of education systems (Ball 2012; Grek 2009; Lingard 2011; Lingard and Rawolle 2011; Ozga 2009). We focus specifically on policy-making processes and discourses from within the Ontario Ministry of Education and also the role of Pan Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) (Council of Ministers of Education Canada [CMEC] 2011), which is administered under the authority of the Council of Ministers of Education in Canada, who through the mobilization of what Gillborn (2008) refers to as ‘gap talk’, are concerned to steer educational policy designed to address boys’ underachievement.1 This influence and attempt to steer educational policy are particularly noteworthy, given that education in the Canadian context falls within the jurisdiction of the provinces and not the federal government.2 Attention is drawn to the increasing use of numbers and a particular ‘policy habitus’ (Lingard and Rawolle 2011, 496; Ozga 2009), defined in terms of a meta-narrative of ‘failing boys’, which is framed within a gender achievement gap discourse.3 In following Power and Frandji (2010) in the UK and Lingard, Creagh, and Vass (2012) in Australia, we illustrate the extent to which policy as numbers, as driven by forms of neoliberal governance in the education field in the Canadian context, has also contributed to powerful instances of policy misrecognition. This misrecognition has resulted in the displacement of a politics of redistribution and a failure to attend to racial inequality in terms of bleaching a more considered contextual analysis of schooling and the reality of the impact of material disadvantage on student participation and achievement in schooling. In short, we emphasize that such policy articulation, in terms of ‘gap talk’ and use of numbers, overshadows a commitment to addressing and tackling ‘the underlying causes of educational failure’ related to what Power and Frandji identify as the ‘uneven educational outcomes’ for various minority and economically disadvantaged populations which can best be explained in terms of ‘maldistribution’ (394).4 Such policy misrecognitions in Canada and elsewhere have actually displaced previous commitments by education policy makers to addressing racism and social class inequality.