Keita Takayma has written a very nice Asia Pacific Memo (English/Japanese) that compares the national testing regime in Australia (NAPLAN) and in Japan (全国学力・学習状況調査). While both are standardized tests, they crucially differ in that the NAPLAN results are intended to be released to the public to create competition for positions on school league tables. This quasi-market is then meant to create pressure on schools to pursue changes and improvements as in the theoretical versions of arguments for charter schools in the U.S. that are also meant to spur on competition.
In Japan, by contrast, full data and analysis of the national test is only available to policy-makers. These analyses are then intended to spur policy-makers to improve results through a policy-making process, rather than relying on market mechanisms.
As a side note, I noticed in the school calendar for my oldest child that PISA testing is being conducted in his school this week. Yes, it is 2012, so PISA testing is going on.