Educators are stepping up efforts to bring more schools into a three-year Cantonese opera pilot project before it ends next year. The Hong Kong Institute of Education aims to increase the number of participating schools from 29 - up from 10 last year - to 60 next year, when it will have to seek more government funds if the programme is to continue. Designed to boost interest in the traditional art, which has been included in a United Nations cultural heritage list, the project on teaching and learning Cantonese opera in primary and secondary schools was launched in 2009 with HK$2.66 million from the Quality Education Fund. Convenor Dr Leung Bo-wah, an associate professor with the institute's cultural and creative arts department, said he did not know whether the government would provide more money for the project, which is intended to nurture the younger generation's appreciation of local culture. 'The opera will die if we can't pass it on to the younger generation,' Leung said. It was one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the 1950s but nowadays performances are attended mainly by elderly women. Almost 3,000 students are involved in the project, in which music teachers, with help from opera artists, devote several classes each term to teaching basic techniques such as singing, acting and reciting. Students say they are happy to take part. 'I know more about Chinese culture now,' said Lau Yat-hei, a Primary Three student. Teachers say that unlike most other music genres, Cantonese opera leaves room for performers to add their own elements in the melodies according to the tones of the lyrics. The connection between the tune and the dialect itself ties the opera closely to Guangdong culture. Leung said learning it improved students' articulation. 'Only accurate pronunciation makes the opera beautiful.' Cantonese opera, which was added to the Unesco cultural heritage list in 2009, was the first item from Hong Kong to be so recognised. Meanwhile, the institute is also planning to co-operate with the Chinese Artists Association of Hong Kong to formulate a system for teaching and evaluating Cantonese opera. Leung said this would help standardise the quality of teachers. Graded examinations and certificates might also be included to meet parents' expectations.