The HRD Minister describes that these 419 districts as being “Characterized by marginalization and backwardness and yet to be on a par with other districts” on school education parameters. Central Delhi, with a substantial Muslim population, has been included in the SFD's for a low retention rate in schools having below 60 percent.
Special attention to these educationally backward districts was given by the Government, which are identified on indicators of infrastructure deficit, a high concentration of the scheduled Castes and the Schedule Tribes, minority population, out of school children and high gender gap. Funds for these districts are sanctioned on priority for different interventions including opening new schools, teacher recruitment and construction work.
As per the records in 2011-12, 67% of the total outlay for school education was sanctioned for 389 SFD's on a priority basis. The States have been asked to prepare detailed and need-based plans for these districts so that the social and infrastructure gap can be bridged. For the session 2012-13 the SFD's list include the additional districts have been included broadly under the categories of out-of-school children, high gender gap and low retention rate. Seven districts have been added to the existing 27, where the number of out-of-school children is more than 20,000, mainly in Jharkhand and Rajasthan. Sixteen districts of Haryana, Mizoram and Punjab-with a gender gap of 10 % at the primary level and more than 20% at the upper primary level.
The highest inclusion has been in the category of districts where the retention rate is below 60%. This number has gone up from 126 to 189, including districts from Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Sikkim and Tripura. Central Delhi is also a part of Sibal's constituency, included for low retention in schools. SFD's are characterized by marginalization and backwardness.