Although China has made huge strides in improving access to education in recent decades, around 2.7% of the population is still unable to read. That’s more than 37 million people, who fell through the cracks of the Chinese education system. During previous decades, rural families couldn’t afford to send all their children to school and, in many cases, it was the daughters that were denied an education. That inequality is being addressed through in unexpected forum: TikTok, or the Chinese equivalents. There is a growing number of people teaching reading through TikTok, many doing it for free and with the goal of empowering women by providing a life-changing skill set. The forum allows women to watch the videos whenever it is convenient for them, which may be in the middle of the night or on a short break during their workday. Many of these informal teachers aren’t formally trained, which doesn’t seem to matter. Experts say that volunteers can make a big difference. “Their education level doesn’t matter as long as their teaching is effective,” said Jian Xiaoying, a retired professor. One volunteer teacher, Liu Bingxia, shares what she has heard from her students, “They say it never occurred to them that they could read and write in their lifetimes. That’s when it hits me that what I’m doing is truly meaningful.”

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