The paper examines functional cooperative education and its place in achieving self-employment, self-reliance and economic emancipation in national development. The paper is of the view that the present knowledge-based cooperative education programmes are defective and therefore need to be made functional. The paper, therefore, advocates the need for functional cooperative education in which there is a synergy between process (skill) and content (knowledge) and thus of practical utility. Mere acquisition of knowledge is not enough. In functional cooperative education, skill acquisition is of first order in importance while knowledge acquisition is of second order. A good mix of both skills and knowledge leads to creativity and innovation. Functional cooperative education, in addition, should seek for development of entrepreneurial skills and behaviors, the cognitive, affective and psychomotor potentials of individuals. A well-thought out cooperative education programme that is functional in nature should afford graduates the means and opportunities to self-employment, self-reliance and economic emancipation. Higher education in Nigeria, especially the universities and polytechnics, has a key role to play in enhancing the socio and economic opportunities of citizens through adoption of functional cooperative education programmes.
Cooperative education derives from the principles and goals of cooperatives. A cooperative has been defined as an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise (Aniodoh, 2011). Cooperatives are guided by ethical values which include honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others (I.C.A., 2015).
For cooperative education to be beneficial to the individual, it has to be functional. Functional education, according to Idowie (1999), is the total process of bringing up individuals to develop their potentials (cognitive, affective and psychomotor) to the fullest and consequently be able to contribute maximally to the development of their society. Geddes and Grosset (2005) viewed functional education as practical and having practical purpose. According to them, education should be skill-oriented (process) as first order and knowledge oriented (content or concept) as second order, in importance.
Against this background, for cooperative education to be functional, there should be a synergy between process and content. Such functional cooperative education curricula should be of practical utility and should be able to guide the individual in solving his day-to-day life problems.
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