Pearson PLC, the U.K. publisher and education company, says chief executive Marjorie Scardino has decided to step down.

Scardino has been chief executive since 1997 — a time of change in media. She led Pearson's transformation from a diverse conglomerate to a "learning company."

The publisher of the Financial Times, Pearson says Wednesday it expects more than half its revenues to come from digital and services businesses for the first time this year.

A former partner in a Savannah, Georgia law firm, Scardino and her husband founded The Georgia Gazette, a Pulitzer Prize winner, in 1984.

She will be replaced on Jan. 1, 2013 by John Fallon, who has been responsible for education businesses in markets like China, India, Brazil and southern Africa, which Pearson says are fundamental to growth.