It is so widely accepted, researchers debated if it was even worth investigating It was the stuff of sniggers and off-colour jokes around Bangkok for months: students at the city's Ramkhamhaeng University were caught cheating by inserting vibrating pagers inside their bras and underpants. But a new survey has found that behind the giggles lurks a massive problem that has permeated most of the kingdom's tertiary and secondary education institutions. The study, titled Rien Yang Sien (Mastering Deceitful Studying) was conducted by students at prestigious Chulalongkorn University's Faculty of Education, in co-operation with the Thailand Research Fund. And its grim finding is that large numbers of students are climbing the academic ladder not by hard work and smarts, but by cheating. 'Cheating is so common and widely practised that we didn't even think it was worth researching,' Piyanand Jittikornyutthana, one of the six researchers on the team, said. 'Ask any student - they all know about it. It's nothing new. 'But then we realised it might be our perception of normalcy about cheating that was abnormal.' She said the study drew its title from the legion of Thai students who pass exams, often with flying colours, despite rarely attending classes, failing to hand in assignments and devoting more time to the party circuit than the study hall. More than 50 students were interviewed in depth over three months about their study practises and approach to education - and, shockingly, all admitted to cheating at some point in their academic careers. 'The deeper we dug, the more cheating we discovered,' said Ms Piyanand. She said there were two basic breeds of cheater: the plain lazy, and students who felt pressured by family or their own unrealistic expectations. According to one university lecturer, who did not wish to be named, cheating is Thailand's 'dirty little secret' and is a ticking timebomb. 'I think it's a matter of reaping what you sow,' said the teacher. 'Corruption and trickery is so common in Thailand. Kids see adults, people in positions of respect, lying and cheating their way to riches. So of course they think, why not do the same in regard to education? 'The problem is, we're producing a new generation of youth with no moral fibre, who will plunge gladly into corruption, who think it's fine to cheat your way into a position with no real effort. Not to mention that many of these students will be sadly unqualified for any positions they may be given based on their bogus results.' According to the survey, most students began cheating by copying work from friends or off the internet. Assignments were sold at a rate of 15 to 30 baht (HK$2.8-5.6) per page, depending on the subject matter and the urgency. Said one student interviewed for the study: 'Many teachers don't even read the contents. They just flip through the pages, so we only have to do cosmetic work. Make it graphically appealing.' Another student, Montri (not his real name), was quoted in the Bangkok Post admitting to being a 'master of cheating'. His high school teachers and fellow students knew him as a lazy fellow who often skipped classes, but all were shocked when he aced final exams and was accepted into a prestigious university. 'I am where I am because of cheating,' he boasted. 'I needed to do it to get into a good college, so I could get a good degree and get a job earning lots of money.' The study found underpaid teachers were also themselves involved - through middlemen, students could purchase multiple choice exams in advance for 4,000 to 20,000 baht, or written exams for anywhere up to 20,000 baht. Chulalongkorn University education lecturer Dr Amornwich Nakornthap described the findings as 'sad and dangerous', adding society had become too competitive. 'We put constant pressure on kids to excel, rather than teaching them about morals and decent behaviour.'