In view of Professor Bishop's respect for students from "those Asian nations" and their supposed math competence, I have an interesting tale to tell about India and TIMSS (and PISA):
At one stage, much buoyed by the raves that Indian students were getting in the US and other nations (for their prowess in math, spelling bees and the like), some politicians and educational experts here decided that India should join the comity of other leading nations in the TIMSS process. They got together and cherry-picked a couple of schools that they considered to be THE tops in the nation and some students from those schools sat for the TIMSS tests. Lo! and Behold! India came in 46th out 51 countries that were part of the TIMSS process that year, 2003, I believe. Then we got the very same kind of depressing results in PISA!
Noses only slightly out of joint, the politicians and educational experts promptly withdrew India from the TIMSS and the PISA processes.
I do agree that some kind of adequate assessment IS required - I don't know how effective any of these assessments may be in practice, on the ground. (I personally make no judgement at all as to how effective they may be).
I do sincerely hope that our experts would get together and design:
a) sound educational systems to meet the real needs of each specific country - we do all know our educational systems are rather terrible; and
b) effective testing systems to enable us to find out how good (or bad) our educational systems actually happen to be in reality vis-a-vis our real needs, as opposed to how good they are in the imaginations of our politicians and experts.