Pearson chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino is to step down from her role in 2013, to be replaced by John Fallon.
Fallon has spent the last four years as chief executive of Pearson's International Education division, and before that served as chief executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Scardino joined Pearson, owner of Penguin, in 1997, and Pearson staff have praised her achievements at the company, seeing sales triple to £6 billion, and profits grow more than three times to a record high of £924 million in 2011.
Pearson’s chairman Glen Moreno said: “Under Marjorie’s leadership, Pearson has fundamentally shifted its business portfolio towards all kinds of learning, its geographic exposure towards fast-growing economies and its product mix towards digital and services. It has been a radical and highly successful transformation.
"I know that many of Pearson’s shareholders, customers and people will join me today in applauding her enormous contribution to the company."
Arizona-born Dame Marjorie, 65, was the first woman to lead a FTSE 100 company, following a career as a newspaper editor in the USA. She said: "“For more than 160 years, Pearson has stood for integrity, quality and business strength. It has been a privilege to be part of such a great company for a small part of its history. Though we’ve changed the company beyond recognition from its form in 1997, we are still in the foothills of the climb to make all kinds of learning more accessible and more effective for more people."
Fallon has been responsible for education businesses in expanding markets such as China, India, Brazil and Southern Africa, overseeing more than 15,000 staff in 70 countries. Moreno said: "John is an experienced and effective leader who has planned and led the tremendous growth of our international education business over the past decade. He is an outstanding executive to build on Marjorie’s many achievements."
Acknowledging current turmoil in the industry, Fallon said: "Pearson has a clear position of leadership in global learning and publishing, with strong foundations for growth in technology, services and developing economies. Our challenge is to seize those opportunities in an era of tremendous industry change."