Social Media Addresses High Illiteracy Rates in China

As China continues to make progress in increasing access to education, a significant portion of the population remains illiterate, with approximately 2.7% unable to read, according to recent data. This equates to over 37 million people, many of whom are women, ethnic minorities, and working class individuals living in rural areas. These individuals often missed out on education due to previous financial constraints, with daughters often not receiving the same opportunities as sons. As a result, three-quarters of illiterate people in China are women, and many also have disabilities and live in remote regions.

This lack of education has had significant and long-lasting effects on the lives of these individuals, as they are often unable to access white-collar jobs and face challenges in completing basic daily tasks. They may also be reliant on their families and partners, leaving them vulnerable to mistreatment and abuse. While adult education centers in cities provide opportunities for marginalized groups to learn to read later in life, such resources are scarce in rural areas.

However, the rise of social media platforms such as Kuaishou and Douyin (China’s version of TikTok) has allowed for the emergence of a grassroots movement aimed at addressing this issue. Over 100 individuals are now offering basic literacy classes through livestreamed sessions on these platforms, reaching large audiences, particularly among working-class women.

The success of these social media-based literacy programs highlights the potential for technology to bridge the education gap in China and provide opportunities for marginalized individuals. However, it also raises questions about the sustainability of such initiatives and the need for more comprehensive and long-term solutions to address illiteracy in the country. While technology can play a role in increasing access to education, it is important for authorities to also prioritize the development of in-person resources, particularly in rural areas, to ensure that all individuals have the opportunity to learn and succeed.

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