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Virtual U.S. Tutors Are Helping Chinese Kids Gain an Edge

Online schools battle with traditional tutoring academies for supremacy in an $80 billion market.
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Photographer: VCG via Getty Images

Hardly anyone bothered to learn English when Wu Wenhua was growing up in 1980s China. But now that she has an 11-year-old son, Wu believes knowing the language is key to opening doors.

So Wu, 38, signed Ryan up for an online service, called VIPKid, that connects Chinese grade schoolers with U.S. teachers for one-on-one classes (the company is the subject of this week's episode of the Decrypted podcast). With Ryan now top of his class at school, Wu is satisfied—or at least as much as a hard-charging Beijing mother can be. “He recently got 99 out of 100,” she says, grimacing slightly. “He does pretty well.”