> or consider for a moment whether a family that lives on rice and a few vegetables a day can realistically afford a computer+internet-connection for their kids...
Only the absolute poorest Chinese won't be able to get internet access and a computer. The computer might cost ~1000 RMB (2 month's salary, for an extremely poor household). Maybe less, if they can put up with an old P4 getting tossed out by an internet cafe, which is now the color of a smoker's lungs. Internet will be ~50 to 100 RMB a month, and that's entertainment (and information) for the whole family. Getting access to online courses (which might rely on YouTube, which is blocked) might be tricky, as is the language barrier, but I'm sure China will have localised versions of the course. It's a major cost, but Chinese aren't starving, just poor. Once you have more than $2 a day, food isn't the only priority; healthcare and education is.
Migrant workers might be worse off than the poorest peasants, though, as they may not have a stable abode. You can't get your kid a computer if you're sharing a shanty-town room with 2 other families. Plus, getting a connection might not be possible. That's probably why migrant workers often leave their kids with grandma.
On behalf of all non-native speakers from all over the World, who are trying their best to catch up with this whirlwind of booms-bust cycles, forced obsolescence, eroding of ways of life, and many other hardships that I cannot remember right away, just to try to make a [better] life [if not for themselves] for their loved ones, I would like to thank people like your wife for helping them in whatever manner possible.
Well, they (the Chinese) already crowd sourcing their own subtitles for entertainment shows like Big Bang Theory. I don't see why that wouldn't happen in the courseware space as well, it is one of those things in China that is truly a creative commons.